Act to Save Groundwater in Punjab: Its Impact on Water Table, Electricity Subsidy and Environment

The fall in water table in Punjab has been a serious issue. One of the main reasons for it has been the early transplanting of rice (before mid-June), which means severe withdrawal of groundwater, as the monsoon is still far away, temperatures are very high and evapo-transpiration rate (ETR) is maximum. On the initiative of the Punjab State Farmers Commission, “The Punjab Preservation of Sub Soil Water Act” (not to sow paddy nursery before May 10 and not to transplant paddy before June 10) was promulgated as an Ordinance in 2008 and encouraged by the response, it has been changed into an Act in March 2009. The time series and experimental data on transplanting pattern, water requirements rice, rainfall, monsoon recharge, groundwater behaviour and rice area have been used and it is estimated that the fall in water table can be checked by about 30 cm, which is about 65 per cent of the long-term falling rate, by delaying the transplanting with the effective implementation of the Act. The water table during 2008, which also had better monsoon rainfall of 51 cm, has risen as per estimated by about 80-100 cm, which is close to the provisional releases. To maintain the water balance in the long-run, about 47-50 cm of water (as equivalence of monsoon rain) is required, of which 40 cm is the long-run average rain and about 5 cm gets compensated by the Act in its present form. The delay in transplanting to 15 June would maintain the balance but it cuts down the transplanting period further; thus intensifying the efforts to improving the water-use efficiency and some substitution by low-water requiring crops are recommended. The savings in electricity due to the Act have been estimated at 276 million units, which means the savings to the State exchequer of about Rs 122 crore per year, split as savings of the government including its extra tax earnings as Rs 77 crore and the additional net earnings of the State Electricity Board as Rs 45 crore. The other long-term benefits include reprieve from the relative humidity by about 15-16 per cent point, which might help reducing the harmful pests and bacteria vulnerable to high and dry temperatures, saving the farmers from frequent deepening and ultimately installing the submersible tubewells, saving and even restoring the rural drinking water supply sources of hand-pumps, acting as a catalyst to fine tune the paddy-transplanters, mandating the breeders to evolve the rice varieties that yield better when transplanted after mid-June, giving more crucial time to the farmers for reinvigourating the research-extension-farmer linkage and, delayed harvesting and marketing causing less pollution due to the increase in dew-factor and encouraging the adoption of happy seeder type innovations for timely wheat sowing without burning the rice straw.

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Agricultural Economics Research Review, Volume 22, Conference Number
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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-25

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