Highlighting the water-stressed regions of India, discuss how reforming agriculture will go a long way in ensuring water security in India. (15 Marks)

Mentors Comment:

Understand the requirement of the question question: what is water scarcity that India is facing for introduction and some data points like niti aayog’s report  or NABARD survey highlights etc; while highlighting the regions that face this challenge, discuss what are the reason for water scarcity through agriculture and their implications; in the end provide way forwards. This should be the pattern of your answer.

Do not lose focus from Water Scarcity and Agriculture. Because there are many urban phenomena too for this water scarcity but question is specifically asking about how agriculture is the major reason behind this water crisis. 


The NITI Aayog’s water management index was released recently. This, along with a NABARD sponsored study on water productivity of different crops depicts the country’s increasing water stress. The current water crisis in the country is said to be the worst in history. Almost half the population of the country faces high to extreme water scarcity. 

What are the regions facing this threat?

  • According to a recent official estimate, 22 of the country’s 32 major cities are plagued with acute water shortage.
  • NABARD study shows that around 60 percent of the country’s gross cropped area is facing a water crisis.
  • The most serious water crisis is being faced by Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, MP, UP and Andhra Pradesh. 

Agriculture and Water crisis:

  • There are many dimensions to the problem. 
  • One of the most important is agriculture, given that it consumes about 83% of India’s freshwater resources. 
  • About 80% of the irrigation goes just to rice, wheat, and sugarcane.
  • The most intensive cultivation of these water-guzzling crops is high in water-stressed regions.
  • Like sugarcane in Maharashtra, rice, and wheat in Punjab and Haryana.
  • Therefore, there is a serious mismatch between the cropping pattern of various crops and water resource availability in the states growing them
  • This, in turn, is attributed to ill-advised incentives started by the Green Revolution. 
  • Green revolution had skewed incentive structures, like heavily subsidized electricity, water, and fertilizers for farmers. These have played a significant role in the misalignment of crop patterns in the country. 
  • Government incentives as well as assured markets for these crops through procurement, have led to farmers cultivating these water-guzzling crops.
  • India receives an average annual rainfall of 1170 mm, but poor storage infrastructure allows it to store only 6 percent of rainwater, compared to 250 percent stored by developed nations.
  • Apart from this, poor urban water management, encroachment upon wetlands, leakages in the distribution system, contamination of groundwater and poor storage are some of the other reasons responsible for the water crisis.

What needs to be done in Agriculture to shave off the looming water crisis:

  • Moving such high water-reliant crops to other, relatively water-abundant areas.
  • It is incumbent on the government to find the right incentive structure for a sustainable solution to the water crisis
  • Research and development in multi-resistant, water-efficient and high-yielding crops 
  • Investment in alternative modes of irrigation are musts.
  • Central and State Agriculture Universities need to come forward to tackle the situation with innovation and awareness.
  • Investing in readjusting irrigation patterns is equally important for fulfilling the “more crop per drop” objective. 
  • Boosting alternative irrigation techniques such as drip irrigation is a necessity. 
  • Shift from the price policy approach of heavily subsidized inputs to an income policy approach of directly giving money farmers on per hectare basis. 
  • Measures such as rainwater harvesting to conserve water have to be taken. This would be more sustainable.

Doubling farm income by 2022 is a target for the government. The tasks of making agriculture remunerative as well as water-friendly eventually coincide. Keeping this in mind, the Central Government has formulated the water conservation scheme Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABY) to tackle the ever-deepening crisis of depleting groundwater. The scheme emphasizes recharging groundwater sources and ensures efficient use of water by involving people at the local level. Such steps are in the right direction and more efforts like these are needed.

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4 years ago

Water stress can be defined as the situation in which the need or demand for water can not be fulfilled by existing supply from all accessible sources. The precipitation in India is more than sufficient to provide for its water needs if it can be managed scientifically in an integrated way.

Following are the water stressed regions of India:
> Peninsular India: The interiors of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Malwa Plateau. These regions are far from the coast and also the rain shadow effect of Western Ghats is very prominent. The rock formation in these areas are not sedimentary and even volcanic in case of Malwa Plateau thus not conducive for good aquifers. The rivers here are also not of glacial origin unlike Himalayan rivers and water level falls very low during summer season.

> Rajasthan and Thar desert: Owing to its geographical location below the sub-tropical high pressure belt and lack of high mountain ranges, unable to tap into S-W monsoon, the precipitation is very low here. The region is mostly arid and semi-arid with minimal surface water. Agriculture puts huge pressure on groundwater reserves which is the chief source of irrigation besides Indira Gandhi canal.

>Punjab and Haryana: Despite abundance of surface water resources such as rivers and dams, groundwater utilisation is very high because of farming practices such as using water guzzler crop of rice.

>Trans-himalayan region: The UT of Ladakh and portion of Himachal Pradesh are shielded by mighty Himalayas and precipitation is almost nil. Agriculture is also limited.

How agricultural practices need change:

> Every drop of water should be used productively and immense investment in micro-irrigation techniques is required. Per drop more crop should be the objective.

> Growing crops suitable to agro-climatic conditions: for example Punjab and Haryana should not grow rice. Preference should be given to other cereals, legumes. Maize, Bajra, Pulses are suitable even in arid regions.

> More R&D is required to develop varieties which require less water and tolerant to harsh climate.

> Integrated water management framework for the whole country is needed urgently. Ground water uses should be regulated strictly. Surface water resources should be revitalised eg. ponds, canals, small dams etc. River linking project should be expedited wherever feasible ecologically. Waste water from cities and industries should be recycled and reused for agriculture.

Growing population and increased per capita water consumption is a challenge but opportunity as well. Water management and agriculture research open up new innovation and business opportunities. Its time to learn and develop best practices from nation such as Israel.

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4 years ago

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Reply to  Hema Prasad

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Reply to  Parth Verma

Good morning sir,
Thank you for the reviews. I m finding the program very helpful.
About the December question, I had mailed about it earlier. I m yet to get a reply. I wanted to known if its possible to shift to January instead of December? I would really like to continue.

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