Targeted reduction in paddy area in Punjab to save groundwater
According to the Central Ground Water Board’s 2019 report, state tops the country in over-exploitation of groundwater at 79%Updated: May 21, 2020 23:14 IST
The proposed reduction in the area to be covered under traditional water-guzzling paddy in Punjab this year due to labour shortage is likely to give some respite to already depleting groundwater table in the state.
As per the target set by the state agriculture department, the department is expecting to reduce the area under paddy cultivation by at least 3 lakh hectares -- from 29.3 lakh hectares last year to 26.3 lakh hectares this year.
Of the total area under paddy cultivation, 4 lakh hectare (20% more than last year) is expected to be sown with lesser water consuming direct seeding of rice (DSR) technique this year, while 7 lakh hectare is likely to be covered under basmati varieties with the onset of monsoon. Last year, 6.5 hectare area was under basmati.
According to the 2019 report of the Central Ground Water Board, Punjab tops the country in over-exploitation of groundwater at 79%.
Bathinda, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Moga, Pathankot and Patiala are the worst-affected districts in the state.
Agriculture secretary Kahan Singh Pannu said the exploitation of groundwater is a serious issue, but they are planning to save lakhs of litres of sub-soil water this year.
“We are hopeful water will be saved with cooperation of farmer fraternity in achieving the set targets related to increasing area under direct seeding of rice and reducing area under paddy sown through traditional water-guzzling techniques,” Pannu said.
As per the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, 2,500 to 5,500 litres of water is needed to produce a kg of rice. For one hectare of paddy field, 50-60 lakh litre water is required depending on the soil quality.
However, Pannu added that the advancement of paddy sowing by 10 days this year will put extra burden on groundwater table as over 14 lakh tubewells will pump out groundwater for irrigation purposes.“But it can be compensated with planned sowing and better techniques,” he added.
Due to labour shortage amid Covid-19 crisis, the state government has advanced paddy sowing season by 10 days — from June 20 to June 10.
Director, agriculture, Sutantar Kumar Airi said the department is making all-out efforts to convince farmers to minimise the area under water-guzzling varieties.
“At least 4 lakh hectare area is expected to be sown with DSR technique, which requires less irrigation as compared to normal transplantation. There is no need of puddling and heavy irrigation at the time of sowing under DSR,” Airi said.
He added that 3 lakh hectare area will be shifted this year from paddy cultivation to cotton and maize crops, which require minimal irrigation.