Punjab Government has set aside Rs120 crore for a novel project for harvesting rainwater through an underground pipeline system (UGPS) that has been used as a highly successful and time-tested alternative for efficient use water resources by developed countries.

An outlay of Rs15 crore has been provided during current financial year to cover area of 14,000 hectare, said an official spokesperson, adding that the expenditure during 2012-13 was Rs23.42 crore, in 2013-14 was Rs0.21 crore and in 2014-15 was Rs15.99 crore.

A Spokesperson said that the problems of groundwater depletion in central Punjab, scarce water resources in the northern sub-mountainous belt and brackish groundwater in the south-western part of the State can be very well addressed through use of UGPS systems.

These systems not only save water but also help in improving yield and quality of farm produce. “This is a three-year development project to be implemented by the Department of Soil and Water Conservation, Punjab, aimed at judicious use of available irrigation water from surface and subsurface water resources,” he said.

The Spokesperson said a comprehensive irrigation program has also been chalked out under which a two-tier subsidy would be provided.

The beneficiary community shall contribute 10 percent of the cost in cash or labour form and 90 percent of cost shall be borne from proposed RIDF-17 Project, under which State Government shall be granted 95 percent loan by NABARD and the balance five percent shall be the State’s own share.

The project shall be well publicised through village Panchayats, soil conservation and agriculture department extension workers and also through print and electronic media. Prospective beneficiaries shall be educated and motivated to avail the scheme.

“Project would benefit more than 35,027 hectares area across Punjab. In addition to the socio-economic upliftment of the assisting SC, small, or marginal farmers by assured irrigation and the subsequent strengthening of farm production systems for a better yield, the major benefit would be the rehabilitation of the environment by facilitating ground water recharge and curbing salivation of the soil,” he added.

UGPS and rain water harvesting community projects are estimated to increase land value by at least 10 percent, save a chunk of the labour cost, prevent soil erosion and allow for an annual storage of more than 300 Ha-m of rainwater for irrigation.

“Farmers rely upon their environment for sustenance and  depletion of ground water resources as well as increase in salinity and loss of vital nutrients from the soil has adversely affected the communities and disturbed the ecological balance,” he said.

Source: 08 September 2015, The Pioneer