Punjab Backs Direct Seeding of Rice to Uproot Wastage of Depleted Groundwater, Launch in CM’s Village

With depleting groundwater levels a major concern in Punjab, the Bhagwant Mann government has announced incentive schemes for farmers who opt for direct seeding of rice (DSR) in the upcoming Kharif marketing season. This year, the DSR was kicked off from Satoj, the chief minister’s native village, as his government completed two months in office.

The Punjab government has announced financial aid of Rs 1,500 per acre to all farmers who go in for direct seeding of rice, hoping it will wean them away from transplantation of paddy, which is detrimental to the environment due to overexploitation of groundwater.

The government says that the direct seeding technique will also mitigate labour woes faced by farmers ahead of each paddy season.

For the past couple of years, as many districts in Punjab have seen a drastic fall in its groundwater levels, environmental experts have been warning against going ahead with paddy cultivation.

Of the 150 blocks in the state, 117 are categorised as “overexploited”, according to government statistics. Last year, farmers in the state had shown a keen interest in direct seeding and 15.02 lakh acres were brought under this technique. This year, with the announcement of financial aid, the government hopes the area under direct-seeded rice cultivation would double.

Mann had visited Satoj a few days ago and urged farmers to adopt the direct seeding of paddy this year. “I want the people of my village to start saving Punjab’s water. It will set a positive example throughout Punjab, as the farmers in CM Mann’s village try to save Punjab’s valuable groundwater, the rest of the farmers will follow suit,’’ he said.

The chief minister announced that farmers who sow paddy directly will receive Rs 1,500 as incentive and minimum support price (MSP) for moong and basmati, as well as a guarantee from the Punjab government to purchase these crops.

Punjab’s main agricultural crops are wheat and paddy. Farmers, generally, sow paddy by flooding their fields with water, which has resulted in a reduction in groundwater levels.

The state’s average groundwater level has dropped to 170 feet. In order to conserve it, CM Mann is urging farmers to plant alternate crops or paddy in a way that uses less water.

With a direct sowing machine, which runs on dry fields, there is no need to flood the field for paddy seeding. After sowing, the field needs water after 21 days. In the traditional method, where fields are needed to be flooded before cultivation, water consumption is so high that Punjab cannot afford it anymore, say experts.

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Originally published at www.news18.com

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