BIJNOR: Sugarcane is the third major water-guzzling crop after rice and cotton, and Bijnor district, being its second largest producer in UP, has 2.10 lakh hectares under sugarcane.
As a result, four of Bijnor's 11 blocks are in "dark zone" of UP's groundwater table and one zone is overexploited. To improve the situation, officials have said, large-scale efforts will be made now to promote trench farming, which requires 50% less water.
District cane officer OP Singh said, "The trench method will reduce water consumption in sugarcane production. About 50,000 farmers have adopted the trench farming method in the district and the technique proves very useful not only in saving the water but fertilizer and pesticides also."
Elaborating how the method requires 50% less water, Singh said, "In this method, we irrigate only that parts of the field where sugarcane grows, not wasting water on the vacant land. In the traditional farming, the farmer has to irrigate the entire patch of land.
For example, a bigha of sugarcane crop consumes two lakhs litres of water in a year. If we sow sugarcane through trench method, the same land will require only one lakh litres of water. Besides being cheaper for the farmers, the method will also improve recovery of sugar from the cane."
"We are sensitising the farmers about the importance of this method. Besides, the method allows him to grow other crops simultaneously. He can grow pulses and vegetables on the vacant lands earning extra money. Significantly, pulses and vegetables don't require much water," the official said.
Presently, Bijnor district has 45,071 hectares of land under sugarcane cultivation through trench method. According to the cane department, sugarcane crop though traditional method needs water up to a depth of 1500mm per annum while the recharging through rainwater is around 1100 mm.
In a written reply in Rajya Sabha in December last year, Union minister of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharti had given details of districts in the country, including Uttar Pradesh, where water table has gone down considerably up to the level of Dark Zone.
Out of 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh, 34 are 'overexploited' for groundwater, she had said. Shamli and Pratapgarh districts top the list with 140% groundwater exploitation rate followed by Saharanpur (132%), Firozabad (117%) and Agra (113%), the Upper House was told.
In the reply, 33 districts of UP were declared to be in the 'over-exploited' assessment units (As on 31st March 2011). State capital Lucknow along with Aligarh, Allahabad, G B Nagar, Ghaziabad, Kanpur (city), Kasganj, Kaushambi, Mathura, Meerut, and Varanasi among others falls in this category.
U C Srivastava, senior hydrogeologist, UP ground water department, said, "The dependency on the ground water has been on the increase, whereas rain water is the only source to recharge ground water. In UP, for instance. More than 70% of irrigation in agricultural fields is being done through ground water. The UP government is the first state in the country to formulate to deal with this situation with a focus on conjunctive use of water."
In Agra, the situation is very grim. The groundwater level in Agra division continues to deplete at an alarming rate due to unregulated and excessive extraction and relentless concretization of green zones. According to officials, out of 15 blocks in districts under Agra division, 10 are in over exploited category while one block has been listed as critical.