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The water supply for farmers in Punjab, India is depleting.
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The water supply for farmers in Punjab, India is depleting.

Water plays a critical role for rice farmers and in cases of scarcity, they often turn to groundwater as a solution.

Approximately 40% of agriculture worldwide relies on water extracted from underground reservoirs. However, when the levels of groundwater decrease, accessing this water becomes increasingly challenging.

In the Indian state of Punjab, also known as the country’s breadbasket, groundwater is being drained at a faster rate than it can be replenished.

Three farmers who reside in Punjab share their insights on their experiences with water scarcity and how they manage it.

Amandeep Singh, landowner and farmer.

Amandeep Singh is a landowner and farmer.

This issue is not only a concern for future generations.

Ten years ago, the depth of the groundwater in this area ranged from nine to 12 metres. However, currently it is located between 18 and 21 metres.

We heavily depend on groundwater as we only have access to canal water once a week, which is inadequate for our needs.

Each year, we must excavate further to access the underground water. This is not solely a concern for future generations, but a present issue we face. The cost of reaching the groundwater is high, but as landowners, we have no alternative.

As the groundwater level decreases, not only landowners but also everyone will suffer consequences. We will no longer have access to water for agriculture or consumption. This lack of water will lead to the inability to farm, ultimately resulting in a bleak future for landowners.

Harjeet Singh

Harjeet Singh

Harjeet Singh: The underground water that we rely on for our rice cultivation is not being replenished from precipitation. However, in the absence of rain, we have no choice but to use groundwater since there is no access to canal water in this area.

Around seven to eight years back, the groundwater was accessible at a depth of 4.5 metres. However, currently, it can only be reached at a depth of 21 metres. This decrease in water level has had a negative impact on my earnings, and I am unable to bear the cost of installing a borewell.

Losing the groundwater would have catastrophic consequences, so it is crucial for global awareness of our problem in order for action to be taken. No individual can make a difference alone; it is only through collective effort that change can occur.

In order to prevent the depletion of groundwater, we must store rainwater in lower areas before it becomes inaccessible. Currently, there are no other options available.

Vishvajeet Singh Jyani

Vishvajeet Singh Jyani

We have observed that the precipitation and weather trends have been inconsistent in recent years. Additionally, our access to canal water and groundwater has become unpredictable.

On our family farm, our main principle is to blend traditional knowledge with modern technology. My father, who was also a farmer, utilized many traditional methods. After completing my education in computer studies, we have joined forces to incorporate both traditional techniques and modern research and technologies in order to effectively manage natural resources.

We primarily receive canal water from the Harike wetlands and Satluj River as our main source of water. This water is stored through our water management system or utilized in our fields. Occasionally, we may need to supplement it with groundwater.

The implementation of a water management system is crucial for us as it enables us to conserve water when it is not needed in the field. This system serves as a backup, supplementing our canal and groundwater resources.

If there is an abundance of rain in the field, we also save it. In times of drought, we can utilize it to irrigate our land.

We have made significant efforts to improve groundwater replenishment and are currently pleased to report a recharge depth of three to six meters.

When there is a shortage of groundwater and local farmers are unable to access it, the state and central government will intervene. Plans have already been created and in certain states, they have been put into action. Farmers are being encouraged to cultivate crops other than rice and other water-intensive crops.

Encouraging farmers to protect groundwater alone is not effective in promoting conservation. Providing incentives for diversifying crops, however, can be a more convincing motivator for farmers. Since farmers play a crucial role in the country’s economy, if they adopt conservation practices, society will likely follow suit.