Union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Uma Bharti on Tuesday asked the Punjab government to take immediate steps to recharge the depleting groundwater level in the state before the situation turns critical in the coming years.
She said the state was facing impending threat of water scarcity. "This is the land of five rivers, but there has been an alarming decrease in the water resources here," said Bharti.
The minister was in Ludhiana to take part in the regional convention of water user associations' presidents held at Punjab Agricultural University (PAU). Delegations from the northern states had come to the convention to share their views on water scarcity.
Farmers should adopt latest irrigation techniques to increase production by using less water, Bharti said during the convention. The minister said the Union government was ready to lend a helping hand to Punjab. "If the Punjab government sends a proposal, the Centre will make all efforts to help it," she said. Punjab irrigation minister Sharanjit Singh Dhillon and secretary (irrigation) KS Pannu were also present.
She said Israel had set an example in fruit and vegetable production with limited water resources. Many villages in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh also need to be lauded for adopting innovative ways to save water, she said.
Speaking on the occasion, irrigation minister Dhillon said all regions in Punjab were suffering from water shortage. "The situation is deteriorating and if efforts are not made to conserve water, Punjab will become a desert like Rajasthan. While Rajasthan has marble to sell, Punjab's economy is dependent on agriculture," said Dhillon.
The irrigation secretary said of the total 137 blocks of underground water in the state, 110 have already entered the dark zone. "Only 27% of the total agricultural land is cultivated through canals and rest from tubewells, which has led to depletion in groundwater level," he said.