August 11, 2009
See the view from the train between New Delhi and Ludhiana. The green fields are mainly rice paddies. The fields are filled with standing water, the vast majority of which comes from groundwater. In a normal year, strong monsoon rains would have fallen, and while groundwater would still be used for irrigating the rice fields, the monsoon would have played a big part.
This year, however, the weak monsoon has resulted in almost total reliance on groundwater. One indication of the weak monsoon is that the fields, while green, are not covered with water. If there had been a stronger monsoon, most of the green fields would actually be covered with water. The heavy use of groundwater is one negative consequence of Punjab’s emphasis on rice and wheat cultivation. Under a grant from the PepsiCo Foundation, the Columbia Water Center is working to broaden the agricultural base in the region and help shift farmers away from rice and wheat.
Hosted by the Earth Institute's Columbia Water Center