In Water-Stressed India, Farmers May Be Asked to Irrigate Less
Water pours down an irrigation channel from a groundwater pump and well next to a field of rice growing on farmland in the Bhagpat district of Uttar Pradesh. (Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg)

In Water-Stressed India, Farmers May Be Asked to Irrigate Less

(Bloomberg) -- India should provide incentives to farmers to adopt efficient water use to avert a looming crisis, according to the Economic Survey presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in parliament.

The South Asian nation should introduce improved irrigation methods, use technologies and change cropping patterns to reduce the use of ground water, of which 89% is extracted for irrigation purposes, the survey said on Thursday.

In Water-Stressed India, Farmers May Be Asked to Irrigate Less

India is one of the world’s biggest users of ground water and its depleting levels are the main reason for the country’s severe shortages. About 600 million Indians are facing high-to-extreme water stress and the situation is set to worsen as water requirements rise, according to a 2018 report by NITI Aayog, the government’s policy making body. About 75% of the households in the country do not have drinking water, it said.

India is already facing a severe water crisis, with about 60% of the country having received deficient rainfall from June 1-July 4, according to the India Meteorological Department.

One of the key reasons for the shrinking ground water level is the cropping pattern, which is skewed toward crops that use more water. Rice and sugarcane crops together consume more than 60% of water available for irrigation. India also lacks a proper structure on support prices and subsidies to discourage farmers from growing water-intensive crops, the survey said.

The focus should shift from “land productivity” to “irrigation water productivity,” according to the survey.

The government has identified 1,592 water-stressed areas in 256 districts to push for water conservation, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her budget speech on Friday. The government will use funds available under various programs for this purpose, she said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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