In the face of alarming dip in the groundwater levels in Punjab, the Union water resources ministry has asked the state government to immediately enact a law to control over-exploitation of ground water resource in the state.
Punjab and the north-eastern states have so far refused to enact a law on water management in line with a model Bill already circulated by the Centre for adoption by the state assemblies.
Their reluctance is due to social and political pressures as the proposed law would put the onus of checking the misuse of groundwater resources upon them.
The model bill, drafted by the ministry in 2006, has a provision to set up a Centre-state groundwater authority (at the state level) with a nominee of the Centre on board and will entail setting some premium on using groundwater.
The proposed authority would also be vested with powers to rationalise the water price structure in the commercial, domestic and irrigation sectors. For any venture that wants to commercially use water, the authority’s prior permission would be mandatory.
The issue of depleting ground water levels in the state figured prominently during Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal’s meeting with water resources minister Saifuddin Soz here last week. On Badal’s plea for central assistance to tide over the water crisis in the state, the minister suggested that the state should adopt the model Bill for better management of the water resource.
Soz told the Hindustan Times that Badal assured him the state’s “early consideration” of the model Bill. “I have also suggested that the state should start rainwater-harvesting on a larger scale for raising the groundwater level,” he said.
Groundwater levels have drastically dipped in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi and the Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Puducherry. The consumption of water in these areas is more than the average annual recharge which is mostly through rains, a recent study conducted by a water resources ministry sub-committee headed by renowned agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan had revealed.