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Farm Growth Needs To Be Concomitant With Water Conservation Techniques

India’s per capita use of water will increase from 99 litres per day now to 167 litres per day by 2050. The per capita consumption of water in the United States, on the contrary, will reduce from 587 litres to 484 litres per day in 2050

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A year ago, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim had said, “Water scarcity is a major threat to economic growth and stability around the world, and climate change is making the problem worse. If countries do not take action to better manage water resources, some regions with large populations could be living with long periods of negative economic growth. But countries can enact policies now that will help them manage water sustainably for the years ahead.”

India’s per capita use of water will increase from 99 litres per day now to 167 litres per day by 2050. The per capita consumption of water in the United States, on the contrary, will reduce from 587 litres to 484 litres per day in 2050. The US is expected to consume 1,167 billion litres of water a day in 2050, or nearly half of China’s daily requirement of 2,192 billion litres then. India’s thirst for water will have risen to 2,413 litres a day by 2050, making it among the world’s largest guzzlers of water.

Developing countries in Asia and Africa use 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the available water for agriculture and between five per cent and 12 per cent of it for industrial use, which is inefficient use of water in agriculture.   With urbanisation and industrial development, use of water will only increase.

The rains in India, even when they are torrential the way they were recently, are not tapped efficiently, partly for lack of infrastructure like reservoirs and partly because of a lack of awareness of rain harvesting techniques. Only about 35 per cent to 40 per cent of the cropping area in India is irrigated and able to produce one or two crops a year. India has 182 million hectares of cultivable land, but crops only grow across 140 million hectares of it, of which a mere 62 million hectares comprise irrigated land. Irrigation can be extended to the rest of the rain-fed areas too, by tapping surface water across 76 million hectares of land and ground water for the remaining 64 million hectares.

Provisions for irrigation have already been made for 107 million hectares of land, but these provisions are not being utilised effectively as yet. The Indian government intends to extend irrigation to 104 million hectares of land by 2025. Effectively though, only 76 million hectares are likely to get irrigation by then, of which as much as 60 million hectares will be tapping into ground water. Ground water is expected to be a source of irrigation for another 10 million hectares of agricultural land by 2050. Canals are expected to provide water for irrigation for 27 million hectares of land by then.

Interlinking rivers could increase the surface water availability for irrigation to another 35 million hectares and artificially recharging ground water could help harness another 36 billion cubic metres of water for irrigation. In the years ahead, agricultural development will be more on water-intensive cash crops, increasing the demand for water by 80 per cent by 2050.

According to B. Venkateshwarlu, former director at the International Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), Hyderabad, climate change and the consequent scarcity of water had a four per cent to nine per cent impact on agriculture every year. The water scare is therefore, real and the need to evolve techniques for water conservation imperative.  


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Magazine 14 October 2017


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