Impact of Groundwater Depletion on Cropping Intensity

An International team conducted a study to understand the impact of Groundwater depletion on Cropping Intensity in India.

About the study:
  • The International team studied the impact of groundwater depletion on cropping intensity in India.
  • It analysed India’s three main irrigation types of winter cropped areas: dug wells, tube wells, canals. It also analyzed the groundwater data from the Central Ground Water Board.

Key Findings:

Impact on Cropping Intensity:
  • India is the world’s largest consumer of groundwater. India is also the second-largest producer of wheat in the world with over 30 million hectares in the country dedicated to producing this crop.
  • But with severe groundwater depletion, the cropping intensity or the amount of land planted in winter may decrease by up to 20% by 2025.

Most Impacted Region:

  • The study found that 13% of the villages in which farmers plant a winter crop are located in critically water-depleted regions.
  • These villages may lose 68% of their cropped area in the future if access to all groundwater irrigation is lost. The losses will largely occur in northwest and central India.
Alternative Sources of Irrigation:
  • The study analysed whether irrigation canals that divert surface water from lakes and rivers can make up for groundwater depletion.
  • It found that switching to irrigation canal would favour farms close to canals, leading to unequal access.
  • Further, even if all regions that are currently using depleted groundwater for irrigation will switch to using canal irrigation, cropping intensity may decline by 7% nationally.
  • Hence, the study suggests the adoption of water-saving technologies. For instance, sprinkler, drip irrigation. Also, switching to less water-intensive crops may help use the limited groundwater resources more effectively.
Reasons for Groundwater Depletion in India:
  • The Green Revolution enabled the cropping of water-intensive crops like rice in water deficit regions such as Haryana and Punjab. It was ecologically less suitable for rice cultivation due to predominantly light soils.
    • This led to unsustainable groundwater use for irrigation and in turn groundwater scarcity.
  • Increased demand for water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural needs together with limited surface water led to the over-exploitation of groundwater resources.
  • Frequent pumping of water from the ground without waiting for its replenishment leads to quick depletion.
  • Subsidies on electricity and high Minimum Support Price(MSP) for water intensive crops.
  • Inadequate regulation of groundwater laws encourages the exhaustion of groundwater resources without any penalty.
  • Post harvest burning of crops, deforestation, unscientific methods of agriculture, chemical effluents from industries. It also led to pollution of groundwater making it unusable.
Way Forward:
  • There are enough groundwater resources with higher monsoon rainfall in eastern Indian states like Bihar.
  • But due to lack of enough irrigation infrastructure, farmers are not able to make use of natural resources there.
  • Hence, we need better policies in eastern India to expand irrigation and thus increase agriculture productivity. This will also release some pressure from northwestern Indian states.

Source: The Hindu


Print Friendly and PDF