[op-ed snap] India needs to focus on water efficiency

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Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Different types of irrigation & irrigation systems storage

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Composite Water Management Index (CWMI)

Mains level: Impending water crisis in India and ways to tackle it


Context

Water scarcity in India

  1. Over the past few months, concern and awareness about water resources have reached an unprecedented high
  2. Two successive events have led to such a watershed change in discussion on water resources
  3. First, the news came in that Shimla is running out of water and was forced to turn away tourists that drive the city’s economy during summer
  4. Second, NITI Aayog released the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) in June

Findings in CWMI

  1. The CWMI is a pioneering exercise that seeks to identify, target and improve key water resources-related indicators
  2. The index has a set of 28 key performance indicators (KPIs) covering irrigation status, drinking water and other water-related sectors. Critical areas such as source augmentation, major and medium irrigation, watershed development, participatory irrigation practices, sustainable on-farm water use practices, rural drinking water, urban water supply and sanitation
  3. This index highlighted the current plight, showing how low-performing states house approximately 50% of India’s population, and how 21 major cities may run out of the groundwater by 2021

Water usage pattern in India

  1. Presently, irrigation water use accounts for 80% of the available water, i.e. 700 BCM
  2. Within the limited availability of 1,137 BCM, we need to cater to the growing demand of the population, including domestic water requirement, industrial requirement, ecology sustenance, and power generation requirement
  3. The present level of irrigation efficiency for surface and groundwater is 30% and 55%, respectively

Measures that need to be taken

First, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Telangana and other water-deficient states should promptly move towards micro-irrigation systems

  • Conventional surface irrigation provides 60-70% efficiency, whereas, higher efficiency of up to 70-80% with sprinkler and 90% with drip irrigation systems can be achieved

Second, the states should continue to focus on command area development (CAD)

  • This is now part of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) which focuses on “more crop per drop”
  • CAD will play a critical role in bridging the gap between irrigation potential created (IPC) and irrigation potential utilized (IPU)

Third, the cropping patterns in the states should be changed as per the agro-climatic zones

  • Improper cropping patterns affect both crop productivity and irrigation efficiency
  • Now it is time to focus on more nuanced aspects of water-use efficiency and agriculture productivity

Fourth, we need to address the issue of fragmentation in farming

  • There are two measures to tackle this issue
  • States can expedite the adoption of the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016—which can lead to consolidation of small farms
  • The second option may provide early gains—creating and ramping up farmer producer organizations (FPO)
  • FPOs provide a sense of ownership to farmers and encourage community-level involvement with lower transaction costs
  • Almost 70% farmers in India are marginal farmers and the average farm size is 1.15 hectares. Therefore, there is a huge opportunity in forming the FPOs
  • This will lead to economies of scale on farm produce, water-usage and cost of production

Way Forward

  1. The above measures have huge scope for changing the landscape of water efficiency in the irrigation sector, which accounts for the majority of water resource consumption in India
  2. Doubling farmers income by 2022 is a noble vision, but preserving water resources for the sustainable growth of India is as critical
Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.
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