With a mandate to check overexploitation of groundwater, the proposed Punjab Water Regulation and Development Authority will have the power to impose tariff and restrict construction of any structure for drawing water for domestic, commercial and industrial use, except agriculture.

In the draft of the Punjab Water Resources (Management and Regulation) Bill, 2018, approved recently by the Cabinet, the authority would be specify conditions to regulate operations of existing installations as per categorisation based on the stage of groundwater development, trend of water depletion and availability of surface water.

But wary of antagonising the farming community, the government has kept the issue of imposing tariff on the extraction of groundwater by over 14 lakh tubewells in the agriculture sector out of the ambit of the authority.

The authority will be empowered to issue orders for revision of tariff to be levied by different government agencies to regulate the use of water. “The authority can come up with suggestive measures on the extraction of groundwater by tubewells such as fixing the depth of tubewells or recycling water for irrigation,” said a government functionary.

RS Ghuman, agricultural economist at Chandigarh’s Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development, said over 90 per cent of the water was used for irrigation purposes. “There is an urgent need for crop diversification to shift area away from paddy,” he said, adding that the Central Ground Water Board had found that 82 per cent of Punjab areas had seen a substantial fall in the water level.

Source: December 8, 2018, The Tribune