National Geophysical Research Institute has found that due to over-exploitation, ground water levels are going down by 60 cm every year.
Punjab has, in less than 30 years, used up ground water reserves that were built up over the last 105 years, which is more alarming than as thought earlier.
Many organisations including NASA, PAU and Columbia Water Centre have already raised their concerns to combat the issue of severe water depletion in northern India.
Adding to the worry is 13 lakh tubewells in the state for which farmers are getting free electricity. Three-fourth of Punjab is dependent on subsoil water for agriculture and one-fourth on the canal water.
The groundwater depletion in Punjab was 55 centimetre in 2015.
Of the 142 blocks in the state, 110 have been rated as over exploited, particularly in central Punjab’s Sangrur, Barnala, Jalandhar, Kapurthala, Nawanshahr and Patiala districts.
In 22 blocks of southwest Punjab, underground water is not fit for human consumption or irrigation and the area remains waterlogged during rains.
The alarm was raised for the first time in 1979 when groundwater levels started falling in central Punjab due to paddy cultivation. It recovered during the 1988 floods but since then, the decline has been uniform.
By 2023, the water table depth in central Punjab is projected to fall below 70 feet in 66% area, below 100 feet in 34% area and below 130 feet in 7% area.
Due to the depletion in groundwater resources, irrigation expenditure for rice and wheat crops has increased significantly in the last decade.
Punjab’s Agriculture Secretary Kahan Singh Pannu said the “latest reports on the declining water level in Punjab, including by the Central Ground Water Board, are alarming.
It looks as if we are staring at the end of our world. Simply put, it is a red alert period and the hooter for saving water is blaring out of concern.”