Punjab seeks inclusion in Rs 6000-crore Atal Bhujal Yojana

Chandigarh, December 26: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking Punjab’s inclusion in the Rs 6000 crore the ‘Atal Bhujal Yojana’ for conservation of ground water resources.

The Chief Minister, in his letter, cited media reports about exclusion of Punjab from the scheme, and urged the Prime Minister to direct the Ministry of Jal Shakti to include Punjab in the same.

Notably, the Ministry of Jal Shakti has selected seven states under the new Rs. 6000 cr Atal Bhujal Yojana for conservation of groundwater resources. The scheme is proposed to be implemented in 8350 water-stressed villages in the seven states of Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.

Expressing surprise and concern over Punjab’s non-inclusion in the scheme given the fact that the rate of depletion of ground water is the highest in Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh pointed out that 20 of the 22 districts of the State (other than Pathankot and Muktsar) are under serious stress of depletion of ground water. In fact, he pointed out, the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti had deputed officers to visit these districts earlier this year. He further mentioned that 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, i.e. ground water thanks to the practice of intensive agriculture, especially cultivation of paddy, for achieving food security for the nation,” the Chief Minister wrote.

The Chief Minister further pointed out that 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.

Captain Amarinder recalled that he drawn the Prime Minister’s attention even earlier to the issue and sought central assistance for conserving ground water resources. He urged Modi to issue necessary directives to 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.

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