It is not only during the paddy season that about 14 lakh tubewells draw out the precious underground water, but it is also during the wheat or non-paddy season that subsoil water has to be used by the farmers to cater to their irrigation needs in the absence of availability of canal water. This situation is also responsible for the decline in subsoil water.
According to the data available with Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, about 2,954 thousands of hectares of the 4,070 thousands hectares of net irrigated area is irrigated by tubewells, while , canals irrigate only about 1,116 thousands of hectares in Punjab.
Punjab has about 98% irrigated area by all means, canal and artificial. Canals irrigate about 27% of the net irrigated area only.
"In most parts of the district, canal water is not available. So, even the farmers have to irrigate wheat or other crops other than paddy by running tubewells. But as compared to paddy, which needs about 30 irrigations, wheat requires about 5 to 6 irrigations, which minimises the water needs in the winter season," said Atma Singh Sidhu, chief agriculture officer, Faridkot.
But, several farmers, whose wheat crop now requires first irrigation, also blame the irrigation department to force them to be dependent upon tubewell water keeping the canals closed even when water is in demand.
"I have to irrigate all my ten acres of wheat by running power motors. It is very difficult to irrigate wheat fields for the first time by tubewells because a lot of water is absorbed by the ploughed soil. The power is supplied from 4 to 6 hours and sometimes it is on the alternative basis. The canal has been closed for many days now, second time in a month," said Parminder Singh Brar, a farmer from Bir Sikhan Wala village.
"The irrigation department must ensure that canal water is supplied when it is required so that subsoil water can be saved. But, it is no so. In our village, most of the irrigation is being done by the tubewells," said Jagmeet Singh Sandhu, a farmer from Panjgrain Kalan.
But, Nirmal Singh Brar, executive engineer, irrigation department, Faridkot, had said that as per rules, canal water is supposed to be provided when there is 60% need of it.
When to irrigate wheat
According to agriculture experts, the early wheat crop should be irrigated when it is about 25 days' old. "If the wheat crop is irrigated soon after it grows, a particular kind of roots do not develop, that may affect the growth of the crop. But for the late-sown wheat varieties, we recommend the first irrigation after 30 days because the crop takes more time to germinate," said Atma Singh Sidhu, CAO Faridkot.