Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking Punjab's inclusion in the Rs 6,000 crore 'Atal Bhujal Yojana' for the conservation of groundwater resources.
The chief minister, in his letter, cited some media reports about the exclusion of the state from the scheme and urged the prime minister to direct the Ministry of Jal Shakti to include Punjab in the same, according to a statement by the Punjab government here.
The Ministry of Jal Shakti has selected seven states under the Atal Bhujal Yojana, aimed at improving groundwater level in seven states.
The scheme is proposed to be implemented in 8,350 water-stressed villages in the seven states of Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
Amarinder Singh expressed concern over Punjab's non-inclusion in the scheme "given the fact that the rate of depletion of groundwater is the highest in Punjab".
He said 20 of the 22 districts of the state (other than Pathankot and Muktsar) are under serious stress of depletion of groundwater.
In fact, he said, the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti had deputed officers to visit these districts earlier this year.
In the letter, the chief minister said over 3/4th of the blocks in the state had been declared water-stressed, including some as critical, as per a recent report of the Central Groundwater Board.
"I need not over-emphasise the fact Punjab had depleted its only natural resource, that is groundwater thanks to the practice of intensive agriculture, especially cultivation of paddy, for achieving food security for the nation," the Amarinder Singh wrote in the letter.
The chief minister pointed out that the availability of surface water had also declined in the last few decades. Therefore, based on empirical data, Punjab presents a strong case for immediate assistance for water conservation, he added.
Amarinder Singh recalled that he had drawn the prime minister's attention even earlier to the issue and sought central assistance for conserving groundwater resources.
According to the statement, he urged Modi to issue necessary directives to the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti to immediately include Punjab under the Atal Bhujal Yojana in view of the gravity of the situation arising out of swiftly depleting groundwater water table.
Modi on Wednesday urged farmers to opt for less water-intensive crops and irrigation methods that will help conserve water, as he launched the Atal Jal Yojana, aimed at improving groundwater level in seven states.