The Punjab Cabinet on Wednesday constituted a sub-committee to study ways and means to regulate the use of water in the state through conservation and management of the critical water resources.
The issue was taken up for an informal discussion during the cabinet meeting held today under the chairmanship of Captain Amarinder Singh.
The sub-committee consists of cabinet ministers Navjot Sidhu, Tripat Bajwa, Sukh Sarkaria and Razia Sultana. It has been mandated to explore and suggest measures to tackle the critical water situation in the state.
The sub-committee members will visit Israel to study their water conservation model and examine the feasibility of its adoption in Punjab, according to an official spokesperson.
The cabinet also entrusted the sub-committee with the task of examining the various objections expressed by some of the ministers on the scope and functioning of the proposed Punjab Water Regulation and Development Authority (PWRDA), which was mooted last month.
The government had later decided to withdraw the proposed legislation for the constitution of the Authority after reservations were expressed by some of the ministers with respect to its operations, particularly with reference to its powers to impose tariff. It may be noted that the proposed legislation had specifically provided that there would be no tariff on water use for agricultural purposes.
Taking up the issue at an informal level today, the Cabinet decided that the sub-committee should examine all aspects of the matter before giving its final suggestions.
Earlier while making a detailed presentation on the current ground water scenario in state, Principal Secretary Water Resources Sarvjit Singh apprised the Cabinet that of 138 blocks, 109 were “over-exploited”. And of these ground water extraction, without prior approval, had been prohibited in 45 blocks by the Central Groundwater Authority.
He said that the total available ground water in Punjab was 324 Billion Cubic Metres (BCM) and every year 35.77 BCM was being extracted, which is 11.88 BCM in excess of the annual recharge of 23.89 BCM. He said that at this rate, the water level in the entire state would go beyond 300 metres depth in 28 years.
He pointed out that water table was falling at the rate of 0.4 metre annually. As many as 16 districts out of total 22 districts spread across 72% of state area fall in the category of those over-exploiting ground water.Sangrur, Jalandhar, and Moga, tops the list with maximum over exploitation of ground water followed by Kapurthala, Barnala, Fatehgarh Sahib, and Patiala, Ludhiana, Faridkot, Ferozpur, Mansa, TaranTarn, Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Ropar and Nawanshahr.