Water Woes in Punjab come home as Entire Village Puts Itself for Sale

In a desperate attempt to draw attention to their plight, and a grim reminder of our resources mismatch, an entire village in Punjab has put itself on the block for a seller

An entire village situated at the borders of Punjab and Rajasthan called Koyal Kheda is for sale. Koel Khera is a Village in Khuian Sarwar Tehsil in Firozepur District of Punjab. The village with more than 4 thousand residents  is spread over  1600 Acres area with farmers holding 10-40 acres of land each. Agriculture was, till recently the mainstay for this village. Dependent in turn on on Panjwa Minor irrigation canal for its water requirements, but the drought in the area last year left nothing for the crops this season.

The crop failure has left the villagers searching for jobs as laborers and the lands are now left barren. The farmers, which used to cultivate cereals like wheat, are now willing to sell their farmlands to survive.  Coupled with its location close to the Indo-pak border, even the rates villagers get in the area for land are low by any standard in Punjab.

You may think selling out would have been an obvious escape, but in reality, this was the villagers last resort. Last year the villagers said that they had tried to clean up Punjab Minor canal by collecting around Rs 3 lakh before the sowing season began.  In a lot of canals today, degrading of the cement lining has meant even higher water losses, making the sitution worse. Despite the villagers cleaning efforts in this case, the canal was left dry due to poor monsoon and lack of water conservation mechanism in the water catchment areas.

If we take the whole nation into the picture, the situation in the rest of the country is not that promising too. According to monsoon data analysis, in 2018– 251 districts of India, mainly in the east, north-east and south, battled drought conditions after a dismal monsoon season.

Karnataka declared 23 out of its total 30 districts drought-hit due to deficient rainfall, and Andhra Pradesh announced that 274 blocks in six districts were ‘severe drought hit’. With Jaisalmer and Barmer districts getting less than 60 percent of normal rains, western Rajasthan is experiencing a dry spell after a decade. Meanwhile, the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions of Maharashtra continue to face drought-like situations every year. Bihar is no better off, with 33 out of 38 districts declared drought hit.

Interestingly, out of 86 of the districts that have suffered from at least a 40 percent rainfall deficit, 10 have also been victimized by floods, says data published by the National Disaster Management Authority. The situation has not gotten better yet.

The south-west monsoon accounts for 70 percent of India’s annual rainfall and is important for its agricultural economy, which is valued at Rs 18 lakh crore ($270 billion in 2018), or 11 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The plight of the villagers in Punjab gives us a glimpse of what other areas had or have been suffering due to water scarcity. What we need are solutions like Check dams and water conservation practices which can alleviate the problems which our farmers deal with every year.

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