Punjab CM seeks PM’s support to improve state’s water distribution system

NEW DELHI: Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Amarinder Singh on Saturday sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s support in upgrading the state’s water distribution infrastructure and requested setting up of a fresh tribunal on river water disputes among neighbouring states.
At the NITI Aayog Governing Council meeting here, Singh, who could not attend it due to ill-health and was represented by Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, also called for greater interstate cooperation to effectively tackle cross-border crimes.
Singh demanded in his speech, which was circulated among those present at the meeting, bolstering the deployment of paramilitary forces along the border as well as a special package for upgrading the police force in the border areas, where it forms the second line of defence.
He also called upon the PM to provide a onetime debt waiver to mitigate the distress of indebted farmers and establish a fresh tribunal to resolve disputes among states on river waters.
He urged the Centre to increase the annual assistance under the PM-KISAN scheme from Rs 6,000 to Rs 12,000 per annum and also include farm workers in its ambit. He also thanked the NITI Aayog for acknowledging his state’s “Pani Bachao, Paisa Kamao” (save water, earn money) initiative.
The CM raised the issue related to assistance for proper development of the state’s border areas which he said was a national responsibility.
He regretted that the Centre had not taken any action on the state’s demand for a special package for border areas, raised in the last two meetings.
Meanwhile, in a letter to the PM, Singh said that Punjab was witnessing an alarming degree of over-utilization of ground water mainly due to the extensive cultivation of paddy which supports national food security.
He pointed to the estimates of the Central Ground Water Authority that utilisation of underground water in Punjab has risen to an alarming level of 168 per cent of the recharge.
Further, the canal irrigation system in Punjab, which forms the bedrock of the state’s agriculture, was showing signs of ageing, indicated by the reduced water carrying capacity and longer maintenance periods, he added.
To mitigate an imminent water crisis, the state government, he said was taking several measures to reduce consumption, increase conservation, improve utilization efficiency, and improve water distribution infrastructure.
Several schemes had been framed by the state government and presented to the Centre for assistance amounting to Rs 20,758 crores, he said.
The CM urged the government to provide maximum possible funding for all these projects beginning with the current financial year 2019-20.

Source: Press Trust of India

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