Water Scarcity in the Punjab State of India

December 21, 2016

Punjab Intensive Field crops agriculture (furrow irrigation) (2)

Punjab Rice farming get irrigation water from local equifer (2)

Photographer: Menashe Davidson 
Summary Authors: Menashe Davidson; Jim Foster

The photos above showing irrigated fields in the Amritsar region of Punjab, India, one of the most fertile areas of the world, were taken during October of this year. As a farmer in Israel, which has a dry climate, I’m very familiar with managing water resources to optimize agricultural production. In the Punjab state of India over 90 percent of the water used for irrigating crops, mainly rice, comes from tube wells – using tubing (pipes) and electricity to pump groundwater from aquifers to the surface. In 1970 there were approximately 120,000 active wells in Punjab but by 2010 that number had increased to nearly 1,300,000.

Groundwater has been exploited to the point that rainfall cannot replenish the water extracted for farming and other uses. As a result, the water table is lower; groundwater is becoming scarcer and water to irrigate crops is a more precious commodity. In order to maintain the water required to grow rice and other irrigated crops, many farmers now need to increase pumping rates and or extend the tubes deeper into the water bearing aquifers.

On the top photo, showing fields prepared for planting, note the electric wires going to the pump house. The bottom photo shows tubes drawing up water used to irrigate this rice crop. To increase agricultural production, the Punjab state has supplied free electricity to all active wells; however, there seems to be little control over how many new wells are dug and how much water is being drawn into the fields.

Photo Details: Top - Camera Model: NIKON D7100; Focal Length: 82mm (35mm equivalent: 123mm); Aperture: ƒ/20.0; Exposure Time: 0.0005 s (1/2000); ISO equiv: 6400; Software: Windows Photo Editor 10.0.10011.16384. Bottom - same except: Focal Length: 200mm (35mm equivalent: 300mm), Exposure Time: 0.0006 s (1/1600); ISO equiv: 4000.