Punjab is a bleak instance of India’s groundwater disaster. Right here is how


Within the wake of the UN report displaying alarming ranges of depletion, DTE analysed the groundwater disaster within the state


A overview report revealed within the wake of the recently-concluded 2023 UN-Water Convention listed India among the many nations the place important groundwater depletion has been reported worldwide.

“The quantity of groundwater withdrawn in sure areas ceaselessly exceeds pure recharge charges. Important groundwater depletion has been reported in China, India and Pakistan, the USA and Australia,” acknowledged the UN report titled World Bottled Water Trade: A Assessment of Impacts and Tendencies.

The UN water convention — concluded on March 24 — aimed to lift consciousness on the worldwide water disaster and resolve on concerted motion to attain internationally agreed water-related objectives. 

Additionally learn: UN 2023 Water Convention: Day 2 ends with dialogue on ‘water for sustainable growth’

The report additionally gave a number of situations of how the bottled water business — a excessive shopper of water with its most important supply globally being groundwater — has been leaving groundwater sources the world over dry. Within the wake of those alarming figures, Down To Earth analysed the groundwater depletion concern in India — a grave instance of which is Punjab.


A graph displaying groundwater depletion in giant aquifers and river basins of the world between 2003 and 2016. Sources: Döll et al. 2014, Famiglietti 2014, Huang et al. 2015, Richey et al. 2015, Voss et al. 2013.

The Punjab authorities’s current try to concretise canals within the state disturbed vigilant residents from throughout the state. They concern the transfer could show harmful as a result of “if this occurs the water won’t seep into the land.” This may increasingly depart the land dry because it won’t get water from another sources.

Throughout monsoons, efforts are made right here at a big scale to dam water from seeping into the land and safe it on the sector to make it accessible for paddy, which wants a variety of water. If the canals are concretised, this case will worsen. Within the case of Punjab, one can not speak about rivers with out preserving its main canals in consideration as properly.

In Punjab, the important thing concern concerning water assets is that half the water from the state’s canals gushes into Rajasthan and there may be no accountability for that quantity of water, Devinder Singh Sekhon, Jathedar (chief) with Misal Sutlej, a bunch engaged on water disaster in Punjab, informed DTE, days earlier than the worldwide water convention.

Additionally learn: UN 2023 Water Convention: African Heads of State lead from entrance; announce ‘presidential compacts’ on water, sanitation

“Undoubtedly, the latter is in want of water however ought to a lot quantity of water from Punjab go to it? So, we’ll work in the direction of the reason for blocking the water uninterruptedly flowing from Punjab into Rajasthan, each voluntarily and with the assist of our authorities,” Sekhon stated.

The Centre had chalked out a plan to interlink Ghaghra, Sharda and Yamuna rivers in 1999 however by no means applied it. Sekhon stated his group is concurrently requesting the federal government to implement the venture and perhaps present Rajasthan water from it when the venture is prepared.

In June 2022, a Nationwide Inexperienced Tribunal (NGT) monitoring committee pressured the depleting groundwater in Punjab. It cited a report which famous the state is left with groundwater to final for simply 17 years.

Folks DTE spoke to then dubbed paddy cultivation as one of many main causes behind speedy groundwater depletion. Nonetheless, no substantial emphasis was laid from any quarter on the continual monsoon deficit within the state then.

“Rice cultivation is a key trigger behind the groundwater disaster within the state. For instance, in southwestern Punjab, the soil discovered is coarse with much less water holding capability. It isn’t meant for rice cultivation but paddy is cultivated there in abundance and water is overused for a similar,” stated a researcher on the Indian Agricultural Analysis Institute who hails from Punjab, on situation of anonymity.

Punjab authorities had promoted direct seeding of rice, promising assist of Rs 1500 per acre to any farmer who opts for it. However there have been no takers for it on account of its many loopholes, together with that there’s hardly any water saved on this farming method, SS Kukal, a member of the Punjab Water Regulation and Improvement Authority, had informed DTE.

Direct seeding of rice is the method of rising rice crops from seeds sown within the area quite than transplanting seedlings from the nursery.

Additionally learn: Run-up to UN Water Convention: A 3rd of individuals surveyed by international examine undergo from freshwater scarcity

Drawing consideration to the struggling of farmers within the state on account of steady fall in groundwater desk on account of a shift to submersible farms from centrifugal farms, Kukal had stated there is no such thing as a denying that the scenario is bleak.

Groundwater amount, in addition to high quality, are alarmingly deteriorating, resulting in indebtedness for farmers and circumstances of farmer suicides, he stated.

Web groundwater availability in Punjab was 23.39 billion cubic metres in 2013. The very best dependency on groundwater could be seen in 4 north Indian states — Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi — the place the annual groundwater consumption is greater than the annual groundwater recharge, in keeping with the information that assesses the scenario between 2004 and 2013.

This information additionally parallels the estimates and figures within the UN report. The latter establishes that the quantity of groundwater withdrawn in sure areas ceaselessly exceeds pure recharge charges. The nations talked about within the report exemplify this; extraction, within the case of India’s aquifers and river basins, is seen to be most alarming.  

Responding to DTE’s question on India’s groundwater depletion state of affairs, the UN report’s writer Zeineb Bouhlel stated, “Typically, at international stage, the information on groundwater could be very scarce. The information on it now we have discovered up to now, sure most of it’s associated to India. However we aren’t but certain if the groundwater depletion scenario is worst in India, however that could possibly be doable.”

Vladimir Smakhtin, one other writer of the report, informed DTE:

I believe now we have to tell apart between groundwater depletion in numerous elements of the world and groundwater depletion in the identical as a result of bottled water business. So, groundwater depletion could be very important in India. Nonetheless, we aren’t concluding the depletion is essentially due to the business — however solely to a small extent compared to the depletion happening, as an example, on account of some agricultural practices.

The Convention introduced collectively world leaders, civil society, enterprise leaders, younger individuals, scientists, lecturers, the UN system and others from throughout sectors like agriculture, vitality, setting and water round a typical aim: To deal with the water disaster urgently and set the world again on monitor to attaining sustainable growth aim 6 – ‘Clear Water and Sanitation’. 

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