RURAL WATER SUPPLY
Problem of Waterlogged & Water-Table Decline areas
By : Dr. G.S. Dhillon, F.I.E.
Water Resources Consultant
Punjab having geographical area of 50,362 sq. kms, is at present affected by the waterlogging and salinity in one region and severe water-table decline due to excessive withdrawals from ground water reserves in the rest. The area falling in the former category is 30% of the total and the remaining area falls in the latter category. Both these regions face peculiar problem in the rural water supply, which are discussed next.
In Punjab there are about 12,428 inhabited villages against 110 towns and nearly 70.5 per cent of people live in the rural areas. Though it had been on the ‘top priority’ of the various governments in the State, but still more than 2000 villages are without “Clean Drinking Water Facility”.
The performance of many of the works built earlier has been affected due to lack of proper maintenance and environmental factors, like either fall of watertable or its rise to a level too close to the surface.
Problems of water-table decline areas The problem falls in two categories: i) decreased yield of the Pumping Schemes due drop in water-table, ii) exposure of soil strata earlier submerged to atmospheric conditions resulting in “Oxidation”.
In the case of the category (i) above, it may require changes in the pumping equipment, which may in the form of lowering of the centrifugal pumps by deepening the ‘dry pits’ or their complete replacement by the costlier ‘submersible pumps’. The amount of electricity needed for working of the pumps is found to increase in greater competition between the various consumers.
The “Oxidation” of the strata which gets exposed to atmosphere may lead to formation of compounds of arsenic which result in ‘arsenic problem’. Such cases have been detected in the many areas of West Bengal. The arsenic problem combined with flouride and boron problem would adversely affect the health of rural population. Till now, no attention has been paid to this aspect.
Problems of waterlogged areas. The affected area falls in the south-western districts of Punjab. This area has groundwater which is not fit for drinking due to presence of salts and toxic elements. So the use was made of the surface water (canal waters) combined with treatment works. But the rise in water-table has put out of action many works built earlier. The populace finds it hard to meet their drinking water needs. CM (Punjab) during his visits to the area had promised ‘tanker’ water supply to the waterlogged villages. But uptil now this promise has not carried out.
Problem of Kandi areas In this area water table is very deep but sweet, so the deep tubewells are being used for supply of drinking water. But water table decline is being experienced in this zone also, resulting in decline in yield of the tubewells. This zone was promised water supply through the various small dams built with World Bank Aid. As the distributary channels are yet to be completed, this source is not yet functional and the dams built are losing capacity due to silting. In some dams the annual loss of capacity is as high as 13 per cent.
It may be stated that the problem must be studied in depth and total solution of the problems be found.