[op-ed snap] Using agriculture to tackle the water crisis

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Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Composite Water Management Index, Agriculture genomics

Mains level: Impact of Green revolution on cropping patterns in India


Context

NITI Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index

  1. It underscores the looming threat of India’s water crisis
  2. Current proportions are severe—about 200,000 people die every year due to inadequate access to water—and are set to become far more so

Agriculture is the biggest user

  1. It consumes about 83% of India’s freshwater resources
  2. The roots of the problem may lie in the Green Revolution
  3. Green revolution included skewed incentive structures—heavily subsidized electricity, water and fertilizers for farmers
  4. This has also played a significant role in the misalignment of crop patterns in the country

Misalignments in cropping

  1. The production of water-thirsty crops like paddy and sugarcane takes place in the Punjab-Haryana belt and Maharashtra respectively
  2. Environmentalists have often argued that sugar cane is the cause of chronic drought in Marathwada
  3. The Nabard-Icrier report makes an argument for moving such high water-reliant crops to other, relatively water-abundant areas
  4. In regions with high irrigation water productivity better suited to water-intensive crops—such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh—poor power supply and other such problems make cultivation of water-intensive crops non-remunerative

Using science

  1. India’s public sector agriculture research institutions led by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research had released a record 313 new crop varieties during 2016-17
  2. These crops would increase farm production while minimizing the use of inputs
  3. The list of new crops includes an early maturing (52-55 days) variety of mung pulse—the first of its kind in the world
  4. Developments like these have the potential to help states adopt a more sustainable cropping pattern without disrupting the flow of their income streams

Other interventions

  1. Investing in readjusting irrigation patterns is equally important for fulfilling the “more crop per drop” objective
  2. Natural water systems lose their dilution capacity on becoming hydrologically deficient, leading to a higher concentration of pollutants
  3. To deal with such water-management challenges in rivers and groundwater, boosting alternative irritation techniques such as drip irrigation is a necessity
  4. Irrigation techniques such as the alternate wetting and drying method (AWD)—a widely practiced technique in the Philippines and Vietnam can also be used

Way Forward

  1. The tasks of making agriculture remunerative as well as water-friendly eventually coincide
  2. India still lags behind its Asian neighbors in agriculture genomics—the process of increasing agricultural productivity by developing crops with promising agronomic traits
  3. Research and development in multi-resistant, water-efficient and high-yielding crops along with investment in alternative modes of irrigation need to be taken up
Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.
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