Sustainable Agriculture demands Optimum Water Management


The declining availability and accessibility of water necessitates strengthening the water management measures. In this regard, the focus should be drawn on Sustainable Agriculture. 


  • On March 22 (World Water Day), Prime Minister launched the ‘Catch the rain Campaign’ under Jal Shakti Abhiyan.
  • The campaign focuses on robust rainwater conservation including the use of MGNREGA funds to conserve water.
  • These types of campaigns are desired as water demand is going to rise in future – 843 billion cubic metres (BCM) by 2025 and 1180 BCM by 2050.
Current Situation of Water:
  • National Estimates:
    • NITI Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index (2019) shows 75% of Indian households don’t have access to drinking water on their premises.
    • The Central Water Commission’s reassessment of water availability using space inputs (2019) shows India utilises only 18% of its annual precipitation. This means 699 billion cubic metres (BCM) is utilised, out of the total 3880 BCM received.
  • International Estimates:
    • UN’s report on Sustainable Development Goal-6 (SDG-6) on “Clean water and sanitation for all by 2030” states that India achieved only 56.6 per cent of the target by 2019.
    • The Water management quality Index has placed India at the 120th position amongst 122 countries.
    • India identifies as a water-stressed country. As the per capita water availability declined from 5,178 cubic metre (m3)/year in 1951 to 1,544 m3 in 2011. It is expected that it will reach 1,140 cubic metre by 2050.
Why do we need to focus on the agriculture sector?
  1. Firstly, High Usage of water: The Agriculture Sector uses 78% of freshwater resources and the rest is used by industry and households.
  2. Secondly, Skewed Irrigation Distribution: Only about half of India’s gross cropped area (198 million hectares) is irrigated. Groundwater contributes about 64 per cent, canals 23 per cent, tanks 2 per cent and other sources 11 per cent to irrigation.
  3. Thirdly, Inefficient usage of water: Groundwater is the primary source of irrigation. Various subsidies and incentives are given to support it. However, it has led to over-exploitation of water especially in the north-west region. 
    • This helped the region to leverage maximum benefits of the green revolution at subsidized water and power tariffs. 
    • But today the region is amongst the three highest water risk hotspots of the world along with northeastern China and the southwestern USA (California).
  4. Fourthly, Two Crops use maximum water: As per a NABARD-ICRIER study on Water Productivity Mapping; rice and sugarcane alone consume almost 60 % of India’s irrigation water. 
Source: Indian Express
    • Punjab performs well inland productivity of rice but takes the last spot in terms of irrigation water productivity. This shows inefficient usage.
    • Similarly, irrigation water productivity of sugarcane in Karnataka and Maharashtra is only 1/3rd of Bihar and U.P.
      • Land Productivity means output produced per unit of land.
      • Irrigation water productivity means output produced per unit of irrigation water used.

Therefore, there is a  need to realign the cropping patterns based on per unit of applied irrigation water productivity.

Way Forward
  • Firstly, technologies like Drip irrigation, Direct Seeded Rice (DSR), drip with fertigation etc. can be adopted. 
    • Jain Irrigation has demonstrated the potential of water conservation by growing 1 kg paddy with 842 litres using drip irrigation. This is way less than the traditional flood irrigation method that uses 3065 litres.
    • Similarly, drip with fertigation method for sugarcane has given a benefit-cost ratio of 2.64 in Karnataka. 
    • Netafim, an Israel based company, has shown the potential of a family drip irrigation system at Ramthal, Karnataka. 
  • Secondly, pricing policies for agricultural inputs like water and electricity should be sustainable.
    • The “Paani Bachao Paise Kamao” initiative of the Punjab government along with the World Bank and J-PAL can be a good initiative in this regard.
    • It encourages rational use of water amongst farmers by providing them monetary incentives for saving water in comparison to their traditional usage.
  • Further, from highly subsidised policies, a paradigm change towards direct income support and greater agricultural investment is desired.

The focus should be on conserving, using and managing the water in such a way that the objective of per drop more crop is duly achieved.

Source: indianexpress 

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