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Punjab’s water woes

chandigarh Updated: Nov 30, 2014 20:51 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

That expensive shower you have installed in your bathroom recently? Well it might soon be a piece of junk if the recent images received from satellites are to be believed. Punjab is fast heading towards becoming a desert if Punjabis don’t stop overdrawing the ground water.

Infact, the situation is so grim that the jets installed on the potties will also go dry, forcing Punjabis to invest heavily in wet wipes. I know you don’t believe this, like you have never believed your own scientists, but this is serious stuff .

The Khabar has come from Amreeka. America’s CBS Channel on its very famous program 60 minutes has brought the world’s attention to the depleting water table, especially in California and North India. NASA’s experimental satellite GRACE has picked up images which show that we are drawing out water much quicker than it is being replenished.

Water experts say it’s like overdrawing from a Savings bank account without topping it up.Now that we know that the Thar jeeps that we see in Punjab might get a matching terrain, what is it that we Punjabis ought to do to save ourselves from this peril? Of driving on sand dunes, wiping with wet wipes and dry showers. Scotch, I am not worried about, because that’s Scottish water.

It is not that the Punjabis are completely oblivious about the water woes, but the tragedy has been that ‘water’ has remained only in the political space. Saving water has not become a mass movement in spite of politics over water forming the nucleus of Punjab’s political narrative.

Is it because the political lot is more interested in keeping this problem alive than solving it? Perhaps yes, because it gives them ready political ammunition. Or is it that our politicians are just ghugoo freaks (beacon light) and don’t have in them the capability to frame intelligent and smart policies? Since the answer to that question won’t be becoming clearer any time soon let’s forget the politician for a bit and find ourselves some ways and means to save water at home. Small habits can make a huge difference.

For example it’s as simple as fixing a leaking tap, that can save 15 litres of water a day. Alcoholics can contribute by drinking neat, more seriously though, shutting the tap while brushing the teeth is a time tested method of water conservation as it can save up to six litres of water until and unless you use datun.

According to statistics if you stop singing Hindi songs while bathing, you can save up to 45 litres. Tumbling your washing machine with a full load of dirty clothes is another great way to save water . Not using the hosepipe but a watering can for your plants can save upto a thousand litres an hour. Now this takes us to the big sucker of water which is undoubtedly agriculture.

The big red spot around North India, as captured by the satellite, is an outcome of the extensive agriculture in the area thus making it pertinent to fix the irrigation methods in agriculture. Flood or furrow irrigation is a disaster and Punjab will quickly have to adopt micro irrigation systems in agriculture to save it’s declining water table (Avg annual Ground water use in punjab 28 million acre footapprox).

Every farmer must explore this method as its usage has many other benefits apart from saving water such as; low labour cost, saving power and higher crop yield. For example, I grow citrus and Poplar trees and a majority of the plantation is irrigated via the drip irrigation. Had it not been for the drip irrigation, the plantation wouldn’t have survived given the power and labour condition in Punjab.

What would otherwise take fifteen days to irrigate , because of the drip line, is irrigated in three days and with better results since the water goes directly to the roots.

To sum it up, our irrigation system calls for a revolution and diversification from paddy as is the only way to save Punjab from this impending catastrophe.The politician will do Punjab a great favour, if alongside the politics of river waters, he leads an irrigation cum replenishing ground water revolution because Punjab is pumping from the ground each year one Satluj and Yamuna. Think about the sheer amount of water that is.