|DEPARTMENT OF SOIL & WATER CONSERVATION, PUNJAB|
SPECIAL FEATURES PAGE
GREEN REVOLUTION AND ITS AFTERMATH
CROP DIVERSIFICATION – NEED OF HOUR
The Department of Soil & Water Conservation deals with conservation of two important natural resources i.e. Soil and Water. With the Wheat & Paddy rotation during the green revolution for producing more and more food grains, the natural resources of Soil & Water have been degraded and depleted. If this trend continues, these resources are likely to be further degraded & depleted and will not be able to sustain the production level that has been achieved so far. The Soils of Punjab have been degraded by its over-exploitation to get maximum food production. Excessive use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides & pesticides etc. have destroyed the physical structure of the Soils leading to its decreased water holding capacity and friable & loose structure. The Macro & Micro, Fauna & Flora of the Soil have been affected and Soil building agents have been largely affected, leading to the poor fertility and production capacity of the soils. This have also lead to emerging biotech (insects, diseases, weeds) & biotech (Water, Soil, Salinity etc.) stresses thereby increasing costs of input and declining productivity & profitability levels. The opening up of the globally competitive and quality conscious market, it is doubtful that the farmers of Punjab would be able to survive in this competition by continuing with the rice-wheat based economy.
Due to excessive use of water, the ground water table has gone down to alarming stage. There is a total of 14.54MAF surface water and 15.10 MAF Ground Water available in Punjab. This total Ground Water Resource is being exploited to the full extent and rather demand is more than 39.75 MAF. In Punjab, the total irrigation water used is 40% from the surface or canal irrigation and 60% from the Underground Water Resource. There are 10 lac tube wells in the state at present. Out of the total 17 districts, 9 districts and out of 138 blocks, 93 blocks are dark blocks, where the stage of development of water is more than 100%. Nihal Singh Wala block of Moga District has the highest development of 513% in the country, whereas the average fall in water level of Underground Water Resource is 23 cm per year and ground water table have gone down to the extent of 50%. Modern Innovative methods of irrigation like Drip & Micro Sprinkler Irrigation systems need to be taken up on a large scale for helping diversification and conserving the depleting water resource. These modern techniques are though expensive at the initial stage but are economically sound and paying in the long run. This technology has been applied to a great extent in States like Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh. The Soils of Punjab are now sick and need relief & proper treatment. This can be possible only by diversification to the extent possible by changing the Wheat-Paddy rotation. The organic farming by using farm yard manure, green manuring needs to be encouraged. The dose of chemical fertilizers needs to be reduced to a minimum level and supplement the same with organic fertilizers. This will not only improve the soil fertility, physical condition and bio-life but also improve the quality of the produce and reduce soil pollution to a great extent.
The diversification may be carried out slowly & steadily beginning with avoiding cultivation of high water-consuming crops like Paddy only in a limited unsuitable areas, preferably the dark blocks, of the state. Also, it is not recommendable to diversify from cultivation of wheat due to its limited area at national level and higher productivities in Punjab.
THE REMEDIAL MEASURES
1) Demarcation into Five Agro-ecological Zones As far as the demarcation of the State into 5 Agro Ecological Zones or Climatic Zones on the basis of Soil properties and climate, this needs to be based on extensive studies and investigations, so that a proper recommendation for diversification for different zones is made.
Zone-I Zone-I is mainly the Kandi Area of the Punjab consisting of parts of Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Nawanshaher and Patiala. This has got undulating topography and hilly terrain. Here the problems are Soil Erosion, Lack of Soil Moisture, Frequent Floods, Droughts, Low fertility of soil and deep underground water (400-500 feet & beyond). The problem can be tackled by constructing earthen embankments on each and every gully and choe for rain water harvesting for supplementary irrigation, recharging the ground water and increasing bio-mass.
Zone-II In this zone, the area comes under Shivalik foothills, which is affected by the menace of Choes. This includes partial areas of Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Ropar, Nawanshaher, Patiala Districts. Here Soil Erosion, Drought, Sand casting, Low Fertility and Frequent Floods by choes are the main problems. The Underground water is deep (150-400 feet) and in some areas even 500 feet deep, lacking canal irrigation. Here also, the problems can be solved by constructing water harvesting dams on choes and gullies in the upper hill areas for controlling the frequent floods, sand casting, droughts and for helping recharging of groundwater.
Zone-III This zone consist of districts of Amritsar, Kapurthala, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Nawanshaher and parts of Sangrur, Hoshiarpur, Ropar and Gurdaspur. This area is mostly alluvial plain and is generally fertile zone. The farmers have to depend largely on Underground Water Resource. Hence, there is a great stress on Underground Water Resources and water level is going down at an alarming rate. Also, Intensive Agriculture and Green Revolution have put a tremendous pressure on the Soils causing Soil degradation and reducing the soil fertility. In this zone, diversification in agriculture and changing the Wheat-Paddy rotation and introducing other suitable crops is required. The stress on Ground Water needs to be reduced by adopting the modern efficient techniques of irrigation like Drip & Sprinkler Irrigation for vegetables, horticulture, crops, sugarcane, cotton etc.
Zone-IV This zone consists of districts of Ferozepur, Faridkot, Moga, Bhatinda, Sangrur, Mansa and parts of Mukatsar & Amritsar. In this zone, the problems are mixed, i.e., the problems of Zone III and Zone V are combined. This area is prominently irrigated by canals. Here, the area adjoining Zone III have same problems of depleting groundwater and lowering water table. The rest of the areas are having rising water table problem because of the saline Underground Water not being used for irrigation. This area has also problem of soil with sandy texture having less moisture holding capacity. The underground saline water and rising water table have affected the growing of cotton, the main crop of the area, and people have shifted to paddy and other crops. The pest and insect disease of cotton is also leading to this shift. This area needs the efficient use of canal irrigation water through modern irrigation techniques of Drip & Micro/ Macro Sprinkler Irrigation Systems.
Zone-V This zone consists of parts of Ferozepur, Mukatsar and Bhatinda and this touches the Rajasthan border. The major problems of this area are low rain fall, high temperature variation, low fertility and salinity. The underground water is brackish and not fit for irrigation and other needs. For drinking purposes also, deep aquifers beyond 200 feet are safe. This is mainly the cotton & fruit growing area. The fruit orchards are being irrigated from the scanty canal water by using Drip & Sprinkler Irrigation Systems from the water storage tanks constructed to store the canal water. This helps in diversification in agriculture.
2) Shifting of rice growing water logged areas to cotton Shifting of rice growing water logged areas to cotton will involve adequate permanent drainage system. In the past, it has been experienced that these areas often get drainage congestions due to non maintenance of existing systems and the farmers are forced to revert to the paddy crops once water table starts rising due to poor drainage. 2.5 lacs hectares proposed to be diverted to cotton will require huge amount of funds for installing a permanent drainage system and also recurring funds for its maintenance. With this step, diversification in water logged areas will have negative effect.
3) Shifting of rice crop from light textured soils Shifting of rice crop from light textured soils will only be feasible if the alternative crops suggested will give the same or the higher returns to the farmers. In the report, the economics has not been worked out without which it will not motivate the farmers to shift to other crops.
4) Shifting of Rice-Wheat to Sugarcane In the report, it has been suggested to shift 1 lacs hectare area from rice-wheat to sugarcane. Dr. Bajwa in his report has himself pointed out that water requirement for sugarcane is approx. 3 times than the paddy crop. Keeping in mind the present status of ground water availability, such a shift will further aggravate the depleting groundwater resource as about 70% of the area of the state is already facing acute ground water shortage.
5) Shifting to horticulture crops On the diversification to horticulture crops, the area near big cities and towns should be developed for fresh vegetables since these will get ready markets for the perishable crops. The specific areas suggested for the diversification under vegetable should include periphery areas of the city and towns.
6) Soil Moisture Regime in Kandi areas The Soil moisture regime in the rain fed areas like Kandi Area will be improved with large scale schemes of rainwater harvesting, moisture conservation, ground water recharging etc.
7) Need of Food security for Marginal farmers The suggestion regarding Kandi belt for sowing cereal crops like maize, horticulture, oil seeds etc. will be possible only if farmers with marginal lands are given food security as otherwise they will hesitate to shift to other crops from the traditional Rabi Crops.
RAIN WATER HARVESTING - A SPECIAL FEATURE
Over the years rising population, growing industrialization and expanding agriculture have pushed up the demand for water. Efforts have been made to collect water by building dams and reservoirs and creating ground water structures such as wells, some countries have also tried to recycle and desalinate water. Wise conservation of water has become the need of the day. The idea of ground water recharging is gaining in importance in many of the cities, this is being done through rain water harvesting.
SOME TECHNIQUES FOR RAIN WATER HARVESTING
ROOF TOP RAIN WATER HARVESTING
Rainwater harvesting essentially means collecting rainwater on the roofs of building and storing it underground for later use. Not only does this recharging arrest groundwater depletion, it also raises the declining water table and can help augment water supply. Rainwater harvesting and artificial recharging are becoming very important issues. It is essential to improve groundwater decline and groundwater levels, arrest sea water ingress, i.e. prevent the sea from moving further land ward, and conserve surface water run-off during the rainy season and urban waste water.
Some of the benefits of rainwater harvesting are as follows
· Increases water availability
· Checks the declining water table
· Is environmentally friendly
· Improves the quality of groundwater
· Prevents soil erosion and flooding
Farm ponds are small storage structures used for collecting and storing run-off water. As per the method of construction and their suitability for different topographic conditions farm ponds are classified into 3 categories, viz. Excavated farm ponds suited for flat topography, embankment ponds for hilly and rugged terrains with frequent wide and deep water courses; and excavated-cum-embankment type ponds. Selection of the location of the farm pond is dependent on several factors such as potentiality for yielding sizeable quantity of run-off, rainfall, land topography, soil type and structure, permeability/water-holding capacity, land-use pattern etc.
Pond = Irrigation + Livestock + Domestic + 20% for neutralizing
Structurally, the excavated farm ponds could be of 3 types: square, rectangular and circular. All farm ponds must have the provision of removal of excess run-off water by providing ‘drop inlet spill-way under normal condition’ and ‘emergency spill-way’ to dispose off overflow of water after heavy rains. Such spill-way should ideally discharge into a grass waterway to avoid excessive erosion.
CHECK DAM BY SLUICING SILTATION TECHNIQUE
Embankment construction by sluicing-siltation method was developed after Chinese liberation for building check dams in the hilly terrains for storing water, warping and for soil and water conservation in the middle reaches of Yellow river. Thousands of deep gullies and ravines were checked by building check dams through innovative yet indigenous method like sluicing-siltation method using natural endowments such as sand and loess. The popularization of building dams by the method has promoted and augmented agricultural production in the region.
DUG OUT TANKS
Dug-out tanks are necessary in the Kandi area of Punjab and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh because in spite of moisture conservation measures, water stress conditions prevail during long rainless periods. Polythene, brick and cement lining are considered vital because texture of soil.
SMALL EARTHEN DAMS
Small earthen dams are used for storing excess rainfall/run-off during peak monsoon to provide life-saving irrigation, drinking and protection of land from erosion due to run-off, recharging of groundwater and improvement of ecology.
Sunken structure/dug-outs are recommended practice in treatment of the upper, middle and lower reaches of drainage lines and accompany the other conservation measures such as contour vegetative hedges, vegetative filter strips, bank erosion stabilization, gully plugging, loose-boulder checks etc. the sunken dug-outs in the lower reaches of drainage-lines can also be linked with recharge wells to provide life-saving irrigation in the adjoining farm lands.
A WORKING EXAMPLE OF WATER RECHARGING ON SHIVALIK FOOTHILLS
WITH COST-BENEFIT RATIO
DRIP AND MICRO IRRIGATION SYSTEMS IN PUNJAB
Drip and Micro Irrigation System were introduced in the State from the year 1992-93 under Centrally Sponsored Scheme. In the State of Punjab, Soil and Water Conservation Department was made the nodal department for implementing the Centrally Sponsored Scheme for Drip Irrigation System. In the earlier years, it was a 100% Centrally Sponsored Scheme under which subsidy level to the farmers was up to 90% for Scheduled Caste farmers & Women and 70% for General Category farmers. The subsidy was later on reduced to 50% for Scheduled Caste farmers & Women and 35% to General Category farmers, which has now been further reduced to 25 % to all the farmers from the last year.
The Micro Irrigation System, which includes Drip Irrigation, Micro Sprinkler Irrigation and other emitting devices which discharges irrigation water at a controlled rate and is applied directly to the root zone of the plants. It increases the productivity by 30 to 100% with 50 to 70% saving of water in various crops. Till now 4247 hectares area has been covered under these systems in Ferozepur, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Ropar and Sangrur Districts. The main fruits crops are Kinnow, Grapes, Litchi etc. and the vegetable crops are Potato & Tomato.
It is true that promotion of Micro Irrigation in the State of Punjab has not been up to the desired level. The State is facing very serious problem of depletion of Ground Water Resources and Conservation of irrigation water is of utmost importance. The department has made efforts in the past to promote Micro Irrigation on the horticulture crops during the last 10 years. However the success in this direction is not satisfactory. The State has about one lac hectare area under Vegetable crops and about 0.40 lac hectares area under horticulture crops. Only 4247 hectares area could be covered under Drip and Micro Irrigation System till now. The main reason for slow pick-up is less/non-release and delayed release of funds. Since the Year 1992-93, Only Rs. 482.50 Lakhs could be spent against an allocation of Rs. 808.57 Lacs. Due to the poor performance of the State Govt. in release of funds, the GOI has restricted any further fresh release of funds under the scheme. As per latest instructions of GOI, the permissible carry over of unspent balance (pertaining to the financial year 2003-04) would be 15% of the annual allocation. For the Year 2004-05, there is a provision of Rs. 44.35 Lacs of GOI funds under the scheme Efficient Use of Irrigation for Drip & Micro Irrigation systems. Also, the new funds will be released by GOI only after the utilization of unspent balance of previous years and the release of state share @10%. The following recommendations/suggestions are presented to boost the coverage of area under Drip and Micro Irrigation in the state
1. The easy availability of Interest-free Loan to the farmers is more beneficial than the subsidies. However, in case Interest-free Loan is not possible, the subsidy rate should be increased to at least 50% as these systems are expensive. Also, the ceiling on land & amount for subsidy must be abolished.
2. For successful and wide-spread diversification of agriculture in the state, the installation of Drip and Micro systems should be made an integral part of the programme by providing special assistance in the form of subsidies and interest-free loans.
3. There is a tendency amongst farmers to get the Micro-irrigation system installed from the unapproved firms without intimating the Department. When the system fails after some time of operation due to substandard components, the farmers lay blame on the department officials. To avoid such hardship to the farmers, there should be a blanket ban on the unapproved firms in the state.
4. The components like Water Storage Tanks, Electric Motors and Pump Sets should also be part of the system and should be included in the loan component and subsidy to be given.
5. Electric Connection priority and assured continuous power supply for at least 8 hours a day must be available.
6. Continuous Research and Technological Support should be given for region & crop specific recommendations. Some R&D system must be developed at the Government of India level or the State Universities level to make recommendations regarding Drip/ Micro Sprinkler Irrigation System.
7. The Implementing Agency Staff should be having a sound technical knowledge. Frequent training of staff at the State and Central level institutions must be done regularly.
8. The maintenance of the system after installation and training of the farmers regarding the same must also be assured so that the system works regularly without interruption. The firms supplying the system must be made responsible for the maintenance and supply of spares.
9. The marketing of the produce and its processing in the region itself is also very important and a marketing network & assured minimum price support must be given. As the fruits, vegetables and other such products are having short shelf life and are perishable, hence their processing within the transportation range must be assured.
10. To reduce the high cost to some extent, tax exemption on the Drip Irrigation System must be given.
11. The progressive farmers from the State of Punjab must be included in the consultations at various levels and meetings of the TFM.
12. The Punjab State should get more budgetary support as there is lot of scope for extension of the Drip/ Micro Irrigation Schemes in the State.
13. Region & climatic specific Demonstration of the system must be developed to demonstrate the successful implementation of the Drip/ Micro Irrigation Systems.