Water Management in Agriculture – UPSC GS3

  • The declining availability and accessibility of water necessitate 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.
  • Water demand is going to rise in future – 843 billion cubic metres (BCM) by 2025 and 1180 BCM by 2050.
  • 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.
  • 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 Quality Index has placed India at the 120th position amongst 122 countries.
  • India is identified 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?
  • High Usage of water: The Agriculture Sector uses 78% of freshwater resources and the rest is used by industry and households.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Way Forward
  • Technologies like Drip irrigation, Direct Seeded Rice (DSR), drip with fertigation etc. can be adopted.
  • Pricing policies for agricultural inputs like water and electricity should be sustainable.
  • 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.
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