Punjab’s Groundwater Crisis: Urgent Shift to Sustainable Paddy Varieties Needed

by Parminder Singh Sodhi

The extensive cultivation of the water-intensive paddy variety PUSA 44 in Punjab has led to a significant depletion of the region’s groundwater resources, prompting urgent calls from agricultural experts for farmers to switch to more sustainable practices. The crisis has escalated to a point where immediate action is required to prevent further environmental damage.

Dr. Satbir Singh Gosal, Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), is leading the charge by encouraging the adoption of PAU-developed paddy varieties. These alternatives, known for their high yield, low water requirements, and early maturation, have shown promising results in local fields. “Adopt and use these early maturing PR varieties for a sustainable agricultural future in Punjab,” Dr. Gosal urged.

The situation has grown so dire that the state government has banned the sowing of PUSA 44 this season, recognizing the variety’s heavy contribution to the groundwater issue. Dr. Rajinder Singh, Associate Director (Seeds) at PAU, noted that a significant shift is already underway, with 70 percent of Punjab’s paddy area now cultivating the recommended PR varieties in 2023. “Our goal is to further increase this percentage by discontinuing the use of PUSA 44 entirely,” he explained.

In support of this transition, PAU has made certified paddy seeds readily available to farmers. “All our seed sale centers across Punjab will remain open seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm to accommodate the farmers’ schedules,” the Vice-Chancellor announced, ensuring that the seeds are accessible to all.

This move towards sustainable farming practices is seen as essential for the future of Punjab’s agriculture and its ecological well-being. The state’s authorities and agricultural leaders continue to push for change, emphasizing the need for responsible water management and the cultivation of environmentally friendly crop varieties. With the government and academic institutions taking a proactive stance, there is hope that Punjab can reverse the current trend and preserve its precious water resources for future generations.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Khalsa Vox or its members.

Parminder Singh Sodhi

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