What is the use value of groundwater in Punjab contributing 11.85% of India’s rice production and 40% of central pool in 36% of the gross cropped area of the State cultivating rice pumping groundwater?
With almost 100% of net area in Punjab being irrigated of which 72.5% is by groundwater the highest in any part of the world and with five major flowering rivers, Punjab is also most groundwater “over- exploited” state having reached unsustainable levels of groundwater use exclusively due to cultivation of paddy. Currently 80 percent of blocks in Punjab are in Dark category. Area under rice in Punjab increased from 6.87 % of gross cropped area in 1970 to 36 % of gross cropped area in 2013 contributing to 11.85% of India’s rice production with a productivity of 39.74 quintals per ha. From 1970 to 2013, rice area increased by 26 % per year, from 0.23 ml ha to 2.82 ml ha at the social cost of unsustainable groundwater extraction. Punjab groundwater is over exploited with a net dynamic ground water resource of 21.443 MCM, and net draft of 31.162 MCM, the overdraft being 9.719 MCM leading to draft – recharge of 145 %.
In the forthcoming Kharif season of 2021-22, The NABARD is implementing the National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) project planning to bring 10,000 hectares of rice area in 11 districts under Maize or Maize silage crop by giving up paddy (Moga, Patiala, Shri Fatehgarh Sahib, Ludhiana, Ferozepur, Bathinda, Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Ropar) in the blocks where groundwater level has fallen and where farmers have high tendency to burn paddy straw.
Subsidy of Rs. 23500 per ha offered to shift from Paddy to Maize
NABARD is offering a subsidy of Rs 23,500 per hectare for farmers of Punjab cultivating paddy using groundwater, for shifting from paddy to maize, maize silage crop cultivation in a cluster of 25 hectares. Approximately paddy utilizes around water of 100 ha cms per hectare and maize utilizes water of about 62 ha cms per hectare reducing the groundwater use by about 37.5 percent, a substantial savings in the precious groundwater. This project would be implemented in the blocks where the groundwater level has gone down and the tendency of farmers to burn straw is higher. The Hydrology Wing is also implementing the “Pani Bachao Paisa Kamao” scheme by setting demonstration plots in Moga district to provide benefits to farmers.
Use value of groundwater in Punjab is Rs. 23500 per ha of paddy
Thus, the opportunity cost of shifting from one hectare of paddy to one hectare of maize or maize silage crop is Rs. 23,500 per hectare. The purpose of shifting from paddy to maize is to save the precious groundwater, save the precious aquifers of Punjab as well as save the environment avoiding burning of paddy straw which is causing environmental pollution, the use value of groundwater which is the critical resource in cultivation of paddy is Rs. 23,500 per hectare. This is a great scheme from NABARD which the Punjab farmers need to appreciate and benefit from the scheme caring for sustainable use of groundwater resource.
Wiser to shift to Horticulture crops
Punjab farmers can be wiser gradually by shifting from Maize to other low water intensive – high value crops such as flowers, vegetables and fruits in horticulture for which there is a great demand in Delhi. Currently Maize even if procured cannot be sold in public distribution system since Maize is not directly consumed but indirectly consumed through poultry. About 60% of maize crop is used in manufacturing poultry feed and about 30% is used for manufacturing cattle feed. Therefore, the demand for maize is the derived demand from feed. Obviously healthy poultry sector will attract demand for maize and any pandemic in poultry will seriously affect demand for Maize. Thus, gradually Punjab farmers will realize great benefit by shifting to horticulture crops, by utilizing the consumer demand from Delhi Metropolis.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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