Falling water table puts Punjab in ‘danger zone’

Hyderabad, India: Punjab, the land of rivers, is drying up rapidly. The over exploitation of groundwater is leading to drastic depletion of water table in the state, prompting the scientists to call it a “danger zone”.

“We have found that the water table has been depleting at the rate of 60 cm per year in the past two years. The groundwater exploitation has reached an alarming 110 per cent which means that more water is being used than what is being recharged,” L Suri Naidu, a research fellow at the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), said.

Along with Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi, Punjab has been categorized as danger zone because of growing over exploitation of groundwater. Added to this alarming scenario is the contamination of groundwater due to heavy use of pesticides.

In a first of its kind project in the country, the NGRI has developed an integrated, web-based Groundwater Information System (GWIS) for Punjab aimed at taking the information to the doorsteps of farmers and policy-makers.

Under the pilot project, supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the NGRI scientists have developed the data bank for Amritsar and Jalandhar districts, providing village-wise details of groundwater availability, its quality and sustainability and the extent of exploitation.

“The work on two more districts-Ludhiana and Muksar-is almost over and the websites will be ready for access by next month,” NGRI Deputy Director and the nodal officer on CSIR network project on groundwater VVS Gurunadha Rao said.

Within the next one year, the entire state would be covered, the scientist said. At one click of the mouse, the GWIS will provide information about the status of groundwater condition in a particular village, the depth of the water table, suitability for drinking purpose and its quality with respect to major ion concentrations and pesticide residues. The unique feature of the project is that it provides for real-time updating of data by the local authorities.

The NGRI teams have been collecting data on primary groundwater level and quality at selected 120 observation wells in Amritsar and Jalandhar since June 2007.

“The objective of this project is to provide free access to the information relevant to the day-to-day affairs of agriculture activities at farm level as well as planning development activities in various departments,” the Deputy Director said. The GWIS offers information on the declining groundwater level year after year for the past two years, which is to be soon updated to 10 years, from across the districts. Its data includes historical groundwater levels and quality during 1990s. The information ranges from mapping the canal network, location of hand pumps and agricultural wells in each village.

The website can be updated with groundwater prospect maps of the districts available with the National Remote Sensing Centre of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). In its present form, the GWIS was most user-friendly and accessible through Internet explorer, Rao said.

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