While many regions in India have already begun to see signs of water scarcity with the onset of summer, it is important for us as a nation to start working on a concrete plan of action that will provide for the judicious use and distribution of water across all sections of society.
More than people working in regular professional sectors, it is a farmer who has to bear the brunt year after year; particularly those living in already water-scarce regions.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an estimated 80 percent of India’s total available freshwater is channelled for agriculture, out of which about 50-55 percent of the irrigation water is consumed by two crops alone in India—rice and sugarcane.
To tackle this crisis, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has come up with a farmer-centric initiative to improve crop planning so as to mobilise a more judicious usage of water.
A ‘Water Atlas’ which has just concluded mapping the physical and economic productivity of water available in India, is underway by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER).
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The water usage of crops such as rice, wheat, maize, chickpea (chana), pigeon pea (tur), groundnut, mustard, sugarcane, cotton and potato have been mapped under the project. “ICRIER, which has estimated water productivity of 10 important crops, is almost ready with its report. It is expected to be out in a month,” Nabard chairman HK Bhanwala told Financial Express.
This move will be crucial in shedding light over how states can work towards reducing their contribution towards groundwater depletion by shifting to other crops and bringing the agrarian community on board.
Bhanwala also stated that water consumption per kilogram of crop output would be mapped so that crop planning and water efficiency can happen across the country, reports Business Line.
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Reportedly, it is the expansive cultivation of water-guzzling crops like rice and sugarcane in states of Punjab and Maharashtra that have emerged as prime contributors to the exhaustion of groundwater table in their pertaining regions.
Despite the government’s efforts to encourage farmers in Punjab to move from rice to other crops like maize and cotton, hardly any change has been observed so far. One could say this disillusionment amidst farmers can be attributed to lack of a robust, lucrative and definite procurement system for such crops.
With a fact-substantiated study, we hope that the ‘Water Atlas’ initiative not only guides farmers in water-scarce regions to choose crops that will sustain over the summer season but also provides them with better returns.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)