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Punjab says no to Ground Water Control and Regulation Act

Written by: Staff

Chandigarh, May 14: The Punjab government has conveyed its inability to the Centre to adopt a legislation on the lines of the Central Ground Water Control and Regulation Act that debars land users from using ground water, saying that this would be counter-productive in the agrarian state.

The state government has written to the Union Ministry of Water Resources that it would not be able to adopt a legislation as per the central act as over 60 per cent of the agriculture land in the state was dependent on tubewell irrigation and secondly that water was a state subject.

''The farmers of Punjab are already facing hardships, while a member of the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has also agreed that the ground water legislation is not being stressed for Punjab as the situation there is different and this is an agrarian state with 80 per cent consumption of water for agriculture purposes,'' the Punjab Water Resources department pointed out in its report to the Centre on the issue of ground water ownership in the country.

''The 75 per cent of demand of water for agriculture is met through ground water resources and 25 per cent through surface water resources,'' it added.

Challenging the Ground Water Control and Regulation Act, which debars the land owners to use the ground water, the Punjab government stated that such a legislation would prove counter-productive if implemented in Punjab.

Instead of preventing the farmers from using the ground water under such a legislation, the state government has rather asked the Centre for a multipronged support for diversification in the state so that the farmers could diversify from paddy sowing, which has been the main reason for a drastic decline in the ground water level.

''We are awaiting the reply of the Centre to our request for minimum support prices and an assured market for the cash crops so that the farmers can discard paddy crop to an extent and switch over to less water consuming crops,'' Punjab Director for Water Resources and Environment in the state's Irrigation department told UNI here.

The state government has also demanded additional incentives like Artificial Recharge and Roof Top Rain Water Harvesing at the cost of the Union government. ''Water is a state subject and the present legal position regarding ground water as per the Indian Easement Act, 1882 links grounds water ownership to land ownership. Thus, every owner of the land has the right to collect and dispose within his own limits of all water under the land, which does not pass in a defined channel,'' the state government further stated in its communique to the Union Ministry of Water Resources recently.

It was also pointed out that though eight states had enacted a legislation on the lines of Ground Water Control and Regulation Act, but some had still not implemented it while the others like Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh faced difficulty for implementing the same due to weak institutions, insufficient human resources, small holdings of farmers and biased subsidies.

As per the 'State of Environment Punjab- 2005' report, the average decline of water has been estimated at the rate of 23 cm per year, while the number of tube wells in the state had crossed nine lakhs in 2004-05.

Further rejecting the Centre's proposal to halt free power to farmers, the Punjab goverment has coveyed to the Centre that the water depletion would remain the same even if the free power supply was withrawn.

The state government, however, informed the Union Ministry of Water Resources that it was taking measures for conservation of the ground water by controlling the demand and through various other means. These included encouraging the farmers to diversify from paddy towards cash crops, zero tillage practice among the farmers and constant monitoring of the ground water along with its proper use.


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