In an effort to rejuvenate underground water, the government has begun building 140 check dams across the state, mostly onchoes (seasonal rivulets).
There is an annual decline of 70 cm in the groundwater level in the state.
There are 109 ‘overexploited’ blocks out of 138 that have already fallen into the ‘dark’ zone. Punjab will become a desert if its underground water resources continue to be exploited unchecked, according to the Central Groundwater Board (North-Western region).
According to Krishan Kumar, Principal Secretary (Water Resources), the project is being implemented under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to build dams and plant trees in Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Bathinda, Sangrur, Ferozepur, Moga, Patiala, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Muktsar.
A total of 569 km of land in the Majha, Malwa and Doaba regions has been planted with trees by the state.
Under the project, 376 check dams were earmarked for soil erosion control as a measure. A 925-km area along seasonal rivulets will also be planted with trees as part of the project.
A senior department official told : “Check dams reduce the speed of water, allowing groundwater to recharge.”
Last week, Bhagwant Mann, the Chief Minister of Telangana, said the government would look into replicating Telangana’s model for conserving groundwater and recharging the water table. The groundwater level in Telangana villages had increased by two metres due to small dams constructed there.
As part of its groundwater recharging efforts, the government has also partnered with the Israeli government. In the water utility sector, Israel has become a global leader after being a water-deficient country for decades.
According to the senior officer, groundwater depletion cannot be prevented until state farmers break out of the paddy-wheat cycle. Dams need to be checked more than just once.”