Scientists of the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) told FE on Monday that Punjab has lost 5.1 million tonnes of its nitrogen, 2.5 million tonnes of phosphorus, 4.7 million tonnes of potassium and 0.75 million tonnes of sulphur for production of food grains in the last 26 years. The most serious is potassium depletion, as potassium is not being replenished at all. As much as 800 million tonne of potassium-bearing minerals, supplied to field crops, has been depleted over the years.
Another big casualty of grain export has been the depletion of water reserve. The fall in Punjab's water table varies from 50 to 70 cm per year. As per estimates, 1,000 litres and 1,500 litres of water gets consumed in producing one kg of wheat and one kg of rice, respectively. Punjab, which has exported 342 million tonnes of food grains in the last 26 years, has lost 42 million hectare metres of water reserve in the process.
The state has contributed 60.9% wheat to the Central pool in 2005-06.
This year, the target was 92 lakh tonnes, but only around 89 lakh tonnes were procured by the Central and state agencies up to June 30 this year.
In the first-ever study by scientists of PAU yet to be released, on the estimated losses to Punjab's natural reserves due to grain exports over the past 26 years, soil scientists of PAU, Ludhiana have found that Punjab's contribution of about 87% of its total rice production and 62% of its total wheat production to the Central food grain pool has caused "massive depletion of water reserves and minerals, rich in plant nutrients.
The study strengthens Punjab's demand of royalty on food grains, on a par with states like Bihar. No compensation is, however, coming to the state farmers in the form of royalty from the Centre.
The latest report the Planning Commission has observed that "Punjab would be the lowest growing state in the country" during 2007-12.The Commission has observed that if "deacceleration in the rate of growth continues, it will affect the income and employment levels in the state which is a cause of severe concern".