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Water Resources for Agriculture

Agriculture in Punjab has a very heavy requirement of water and about 85 percent of the water resources in the state are consumed by agriculture i.e. for irrigation purposes. The major sources of irrigation in the state are its extensive canal system and underground water drawn out by tube wells.

The state surface water resources (three perennial rivers, namely the Sutlej, Beas and Ravi, having  water potential of about 14.54 Million Acre Feet) are being fully utilized through the well organized canal irrigation system in sustaining the intensive agriculture practices.

The long canal network consists of six major canals (the Upper Bari Doab Canal; Bist Doab Canal; Sirhind Canal; Bhakra Main Canal; Bikaner Canal and Ferozepur Canal Circle) of about 14.5 Th. km providing irrigation to an area of 1.6 million ha. Most of the canal irrigated area of Punjab lies in Upper Bari Doab (from Ravi river) and Malwa region which include the Sirhind, Bhakra and Bikaner canals from river Sutlej.

During  the year 2018-19, about 98.9 percent  agricultural area of state was irrigated from canals and tube wells. The canal irrigated area in the state increased between 1980 to 1990 but a significant reduction has been reported from 1990-91 to 2018-19.  Whereas the area irrigated by centrifugal tube wells has increased during the same period i.e. from 2233 Th. ha in 1990-91 to 2907 Th. ha in 2018-19.

Net irrigated Area in Punjab (source-wise)

            Source: Statistical Abstract of Punjab, 2019     

The State also has an 8 thousand km long drainage network .The major seasonal drains of the state, Chitti Bein, Kali Bein, Sakki and Kiran Nallah, etc. Numerous choes of the sub shiwaliks or the Kandi area are the ephemeral drains. These drains help in quickly dealing with heavy run off in monsoons and in preventing water logging.

Extensive Irrigation and Exploitation of Groundwater

Punjab is a well irrigated state with majority of the cropped area under irrigation. The number of tube wells in the State has increased from 10.73 lac in 2000-01 to 14.76 lac in 2018-19. The tube wells operated on electricity has increased from 7.88 lac to 13.36 lac during the same time period indicating reduction in diesel operated tube wells which is better for the environment, however, excessive extraction of groundwater does not support sustainable agriculture practices.

This has caused the depletion of the underground water table. Groundwater extraction is more

than 100 percent  in Punjab implying that groundwater consumption exceeds annual extractable sources.

Ministry of Jal Shakti (2019) Report on the Dynamic Ground water resources of India, 2017 reported that Punjab groundwater resources showed, 80% of 138 assessed blocks were ‘Over-exploited’, 2 blocks were ‘Critical’, 5 were ‘Semi-Critical’, and 22 were ‘Safe’. It also highlighted that 95 percent of the water extracted in the state was for irrigation purposes.

Further, because of the declining water table, the farmers are compelled to deepen their tube wells at their own cost, as the ordinary tube wells become obsolete due to their inability to draw underground water. Therefore, farmers are increasingly shifting over to submersible pumps. The submersible pumps are expected to raise the cost of cultivation and excessive use of groundwater. With increasing costs of irrigation, the marginal farmers are expected to be left vulnerable to the impacts of a declining water table. 

The Government of Punjab is continuously taking steps to give solution to above problem such as by promoting the micro-irrigation system, including sprinkler and drip irrigation to make available the irrigation water to all  farming systems in the state in a targeted manner.