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Punjab’s desertification

Date: 01 October 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous


A report submitted by the Punjab Vidhan Sabha committee says that the state could turn into a desert in next 25 years if exploitation of aquifers is not stopped.



A similar study was conducted few decades ago when it had also made a similar projection that said aquifers of Punjab could be depleted by 2025.



  • The study conducted by World Watch Institute (WWI) in 1998 and titled ‘The State of the World Report, 1998′, had predicted that aquifers could be depleted by 2025.

  • The current water table in the state is going down fast because the water drawn is more than the amount that is replenished.

  • The rate of drawing is about 1.66 times the rate of replenishment. There is a threat that the state could possibly turn into a desert.


The situation

  • More than 109 blocks out of the 138 blocks of the state have gone into dark. It means that groundwater extraction is more than 100 per cent here.

  • Two of the blocks are in critical zone where extraction is 90 to 100 per cent. About 5 blocks are semi-critical, where extraction is 70 to 90 per cent.

  • The data indicates that about 80% of blocks of the state are already dried up and about 4 percent are on the verge of drying up in near future.

  • In some parts of south-west part, the ground water levels have risen. However, the water is brackish, making it unfit for irrigation or consumption.


The reasons

  • The major reason has been unscientific agricultural practices. The paddy crop was adopted on a large scale after the advent of green revolution.

  • It is not the traditional crop of Punjab due to the intense water that is consumed. However, the area under paddy has grown by 11 times.

  • To grow paddy, puddling system is used. This system creates a thick hard layer on the agricultural fields preventing rainwater from percolating into the ground.


The bleak state

  • It takes about 4,000 liters water to grow one kg of rice. This means that water-grain ratio is very high, threatening water security.

  • If the same trend continues, in about 25-27 years, half of Punjab will also slip into the dark zone and potentially turn into a desert.


Possible measures

  • Farmers must have to be incentivized for adopting alternative crops.

  • Greater financial support should be given for water saving technologies such as drip irrigation.

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