Editorial Summary - On Water Front



Things to Remember while reading this article is :-

  1. Usage of Water Sources in India
  2. Possible ways or Solutions to this problem


Context :- India's Water Situation  
The images of thousands of Chennai residents running after water tankers were telecast by BBC and CNN. Several people had to walk for miles to get drinking water in parched lands.

PM Modi on Water Conservation:-

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the first ‘Mann ki Baat’ of his second term, gave a clarion call to save every drop of water, and to make water conservation a mass movement 
  • He already has given a commitment to deliver tap water, hopefully safe for drinking, to every household by 2024 under the “Nal se Jal” programme. 

Water in India :-
India has only 4 per cent of the global fresh water resources while it has to quench the thirst of about 18 per cent of the world population.

Fresh Water Usage :-
  • Of the total fresh water resources available in the country, as per the Central Water Commission, 78 per cent was being used for irrigation in 2010, which is likely to be reduced to 68 per cent by 2050. 
  • For domestic use, it was just 6 per cent in 2010, likely to go up to 9.5 per cent by 2050.
  • Agriculture will remain the biggest user of water to produce enough food, feed and fibre
Ground Water  Usage :-
  • The total of about 198 million hectares of India’s gross cropped area, roughly half is irrigated. And the major source of this irrigation is groundwater (63 per cent), canals accounting for 24 per cent, tanks 2 per cent and all other sources accounting for about 11 per cent. 
  • The real burden of irrigating Indian agriculture lies with groundwater, driven by private investments from farmers.

What makes Farmers use Groundwater more for Irrigation ?

The policy of cheap or free power supply for irrigation has led to a situation of near-anarchy in the use of groundwater.
  • On the one hand, power subsidies to agriculture cost the exchequer roughly Rs 70,000 crore each year and on the other, this is depleting groundwater in an alarming manner. 
  • Overall, about 1,592 blocks in 256 districts are either critical or overexploited. 
This only shows how indifferent and short-sighted we are while taking away the rights of our own future generations.

Crops using most of the Water :-

Paddy and sugarcane, both water-guzzling crops, take away almost 60 per cent of India’s irrigation water. 

One kilogram of rice produced in Punjab requires almost 5,000 litres of water, and one kg of sugar, say in Maharashtra, requires about 2,300 litres of water for irrigation. 

Traditionally, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar used to be the hubs for sugarcane, and rice was grown largely in eastern and southern India, where rainfall was high and water plentiful. All that changed with new technology and populist policies like free power.

What could be the solution ?
  • Reward for Farmers :-
    One possible way out is to give monetary rewards to farmers for saving water and power for irrigation.
    The existing situation can be taken as a sort of current entitlement, and those who agree to get their power supply metered and if they save on power consumption compared to current levels, can be rewarded. 
  • Income Support for Farmers :-
    There could be an income support (of say Rs 15,000/ha) for crops that guzzle less water, say maize or soyabean in Punjab during the kharif season. This would provide savings on the power subsidy, but more importantly, in terms of precious groundwater. 
  • Paddy & Sugarcane Cultivation areas needs to be change :-
    At least one million hectares of paddy cultivation needs to shift away from the Punjab/Haryana belt to eastern India. Eastern India can develop better procurement facilities for paddy for the PDS, and procurement from Punjab-Haryana needs to be discouraged/curtailed.
    Similarly, sugarcane needs to be contained in the Maharashtra-Karnataka belt and expanded in the UP-Bihar belt. 

( Source :- Indian Express )

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