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Fluctuation in groundwater levels in Punjab worries experts

Water levels in some areas have gone down to alarming levels but a constant rise in other spots, leading to waterlogging and salinity, could be cause for concern.

punjab Updated: Jul 30, 2018 12:23 IST
Jatinder Kaur Tur
Jatinder Kaur Tur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
groundwater levels in Punjab,Punjab,Central Ground Water Board
(Representative image )

Fluctuations in water levels in Punjab have experts worried, going by data collected by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) for June 2018. The levels are falling at alarming rates at some places and going up simultaneously in other spots. Rising levels are leading to waterlogging and problems of salinity. More than two lakh hectares of fertile land lie waterlogged in Punjab.

At Kondal in Fazilka district, water was detected at 0.45m below ground level (bgl), falling to 42.18m bgl at Patran in Patiala district.

Another study by CGWB based on the decadal mean water level fluctuation has indicated a constant rise in levels that’s leading to waterlogging and salinisation.

Data from May 2007 to May 2017 coupled with the readings of the first quarter of 2018 from nearly 623 wells across the state points to a rise in levels in 21% of the wells covering 18% area.

Anoop Nagar, regional director, CGWB , north western region said that interpretations of decadal mean fluctuations indicate a water level rise in 21% of wells and 18% of area in Ferozepur, Fazilka, Muktsar, Bathinda and Faridkot districts in addition to isolated patches in the districts of Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Hoshiarpur, Nawanshehar, Jalandhar, Ropar and SAS Nagar in the north and northeastern parts of the state.

Of the wells monitored, water level rise in the range of 0-2 m has been observed in 18 % of wells, ie nearly 115 wells and 17 % of the area.

“Unfortunately, this water is not of much use since the soils are alkaline and the ground is saturated with water, increasing water salinity,” said Nagar.

Readings from May 2016 till the pre-monsoon period this year also revealed shallow water levels in southwest parts of Punjab, including Faridkot, Muktsar, Ferozepur and south west Punjab and the floodplains of the Beas river in Mukerian block of Hoshiarpur district.

Very shallow water levels of 0-2 m (causing waterlogging) occured in more than 3% of wells and covered nearly 2% area of the state in south western parts in Muktsar and Fazilka districts.

Shallow water levels of 2-5 m have also been observed in 11% of the wells and more than 10% of the total area that lies in south western parts of Muktsar, Fazilka, Faridkot, Bathinda; in the northern parts of Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts and few isolated patches in the north eastern parts.

“These are mainly canal command areas and use canal water for agricultural needs”, said Nagar.

The problem has become serious as due to the fact that these water logged saline areas lie in close proximity to regions with overexploitation of ground water. Nagar also said that because of the hydraulic gradient, the saline groundwater of southwest Punjab was likely to start flowing into the receding and depleting sweet water aquifers of northern and Central Punjab.

The fallout: Waterlogging and increase in soil salinity

CGWB, north western region experts say the state can control water level fluctuation by adopting the following strategies:

1. Punjab needs to restore depleting ground water levels in the northern and central districts and get rid of the waterlogging problem in south west districts.

2. More than two lakh hectares of fertile land is waterlogged in Punjab.

Rendering land infertile

Waterlogging, apart from leading to land salinity, results in depletion of oxygen and amplification of carbon dioxide in the root zone of crops, making cultivation an unyielding and tough task, rendering huge masses of land completely uncultivable, thereby making land-owning farmers practically landless.

Why are patches of land waterlogged in the state?

Water collects in areas which lack natural drainage in flat topography coupled with monsoon inundation on areas of depressions relative to surrounding areas , shift in cropping pattern, inadequate surface and subsurface drainage, poor water management practices, excess canal water irrigation, harnessing poor quality groundwater for irrigation and seepage from irrigation network. Another problem is the relative topography of the Rajasthan canal vis-a-vis the adjoining areas resulting in rise of groundwater level from 43m approximately to less than one metre in severely waterlogged areas.

Solutions to check waterlogging

1. Shifting to crops with low water requirements and opting for drip irrigation system for the same.

2. Areas with saline water can be trapped for salt water aquaculture for fisheries etc.

3. Checking seepage from irrigation networks.

4. Surface and sub-surface drainage

5. Control of flooding.

Behaviour of groundwater in June 2018

Very shallow water levels of 0-2 m (causing waterlogging) occur in more than 4% of wells and cover less than 1% area of the state in south western parts in Muktsar, Faridkot and Fazilka districts. Shallow water levels of 2-5 m have been observed in 15% of the wells and more than 10% of the total area that lies in south western parts of Muktsar, Fazilka, Faridkot, and in northern parts of Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts and few isolated patches in north eastern parts. The area in south western parts is mainly canal command and use canal water for their needs.

First Published: Jul 30, 2018 12:21 IST