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.