Agriculture & groundwater depletion

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    Context

    • The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Water Resources recently tabled the report, “Groundwater: A Valuable but Diminishing Resource”.

    Report Highlights & committee suggestions

    • Issue of excessive exploitation of groundwater & free electricity:
      • States like Punjab, Haryana, Telangana and Tamil Nadu offer completely free power, while other states have provision for collection of token charges.
      • Observing that the primary reason for excessive exploitation of groundwater is wide cultivation of water guzzler paddy and sugarcane crops, which are “heavily incentivized”, a Parliamentary Standing Committee has said that the use of electric pumps needs to be further discouraged.
    • Suggested measure:
      • The committee has suggested introducing measures such prepaid cards for power supply and restricting power supply to few hours a day.
      • The committee has also asked the government to devise “integrated measures” for adoption in agriculture to reduce dependence on groundwater in agriculture.
    • Concerned ministries:
      • The committee has recommended that the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation under the Jal Shakti Ministry should take the initiative by urging both the Power Ministry and Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare along with state governments to take measures on the suggested lines.
    • Issue with restricting electricity:
      • Electricity is a concurrent subject and SERCs determine the electricity tariff for retail supply of electricity to end consumers under the extant provisions of Electricity Act, 2003.
        • So, both the Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare “have expressed inability to persuade states to reduce/stop subsidies for power given in agriculture.
    • Water productivity:
      • The committee said that there is a need for a shift in focus from ‘land productivity’ to ‘water productivity’.

    Issue of groundwater depletion due to agriculture

    • India is the world’s second-largest producer of wheat, and rice and is home to more than 600 million farmers. 
    • The country has achieved impressive food-production gains since the 1960s, due to an increased reliance on irrigation wells, which allowed Indian farmers to expand production into the mostly dry winter and summer seasons 
      • These gains have come at a cost with severe groundwater depletion, the cropping intensity or the amount of land planted in the winter season may decrease by up to 20% by 2025.
      • The country that produces 10% of the world’s crops is now the world’s largest consumer of groundwater.
      • The aquifers are rapidly becoming depleted across India. 
    • State-wise data:
      • Extraction of groundwater for meeting irrigation needs is prevalent mainly in northern states, particularly in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, which are extracting 97%, 90% and 86% of groundwater, respectively, for this purpose. 
      • Other states such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh are also significant users of groundwater for irrigation as they are using approximately 89%, 92% and 90%, respectively, of their total groundwater extraction for agricultural purposes.

    Government Initiatives 

    • Deendayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana:
      • Punjab has introduced a scheme by way of which farmers were refunded money if they consumed less electricity. 
        • Under Deendayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana of Ministry of Power, separate components of agriculture and non-agriculture feeders have been created for facilitating judicious rostering of supply to agriculture & non-agriculture consumers in rural areas.
    • National Water Policy, 2012 
      • It has laid emphasis on the periodic assessment of groundwater resources on a scientific basis. 
    • Atal Bhujal Yojana: 
      • The focus of the scheme is on community participation and demand side intervention for sustainable groundwater management in identified water stressed areas.
    • Jal Jeevan Mission:
      • Provisions have been made for source recharging like dedicated bore well recharge structures, rain water recharge, rejuvenation of existing water bodies, etc.
    • Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana: 
      • It aims to enhance physical access of water on farm and for expanding the cultivable area under assured irrigation, improve on-farm water use efficiency, introducing sustainable water conservation practices, etc.
    • Per Drop More Crop: 
      • It mainly focuses on water use efficiency at farm level through micro irrigation (drip and sprinkler irrigation system).
    • Rejuvenation of Dry Ponds, puddles and wells:
      • Water being a State subject, it is for the State Governments to take up rejuvenation of water bodies like formulation of action plan for rejuvenation of dry ponds, puddles and wells in their jurisdiction.
    • National Aquifer Mapping and Management program (NAQUIM):
      • It is being implemented by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) as part of Ground Water Management and Regulation (GWM&R) Scheme, a central sector scheme.

    Suggestions & way ahead

    • Monitoring:
      • The exploitation and sale of groundwater by large corporations should be monitored on a continuous basis.
    • Rainwater harvesting:
      • Both Central and State governments must take continuous steps to store rainwater in all possible ways to increase recharge. 
      • Rainwater harvesting system must be made mandatory in every household, particularly in big cities where groundwater has been declining alarmingly.
    • MSP fixing considering groundwater resource:
      • Considering the groundwater balance, MSPs for crops should be fixed according to the consumption of water; higher prices for crops that require less water and vice-versa. 
    • Micro-irrigation:
      • Micro-irrigation (drip and sprinkler), which can save about 50 percent of water in the cultivation of different crops, should be promoted in the over-exploited blocks to reduce the exploitation of groundwater.
    • Awareness:
      • People from all walks of life must continue to be made aware of water literacy and on the hazardous effects of rapidly declining groundwater.

    Source: PIB