Constructive Initiatives undertaken to regularize water usage and boost agricultural sector

In the recent press meet dated 5th September, T. Mohapatra, director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) addressed the media about the initiatives undertaken to improve the farming situation in the country and the efforts of ICAR in scientific water management in line with the Jal Shakti Abhiyan. He gave an insight into the technologies and their positive effects that would be used to improve the situation of agriculture scenario in India. In order to enhance water security and high agricultural productivity, scheduling irrigation is necessary as it would result in constructive use of water by utilizing recycled water and modern irrigation technologies. 

T. Mohapatra, Secretary of the Department of Agricultural Research and Education added that in order to ensure constructive use of water along with scheduled irrigation, proper crop selection has to be done according to the soil, with alternatives such as cultivation of fruits, millets and bajra. The initiatives mentioned are being addressed, by training around 10.8 crore farmers through Krishi Vigyan Kendras under the 371 melas that have been conducted across the country after the launch of Jal Shakti Abhiyan. These melas were conducted from 1st July, 2019 until early September. He added that using water conservation methods would result in the conservation of water by 35-40%, whereas scheduled irrigation would ensure 20-25% reduction in fertilizer use. The methods listed would thus cut down costs spent on extra fertilizers unnecessarily and ensure fertilized agricultural land. 

Elaborating on the technology going to be used, it was mentioned that Moisture Sensors and Automated Irrigation Systems that can be controlled by a farmer using mobile phone will help in deciding the time and amount of irrigation to be carried out. Furthermore, using bio-mulch and hydro gels will ensure slow release of water, whereas utilization of microbes helpful in efficient absorption of water will reduce the normal amount of water used and proper its utilization for agriculture. 

States have prepared irrigation plans based on the technical support received from ICAR for implementation under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), so that the slogan, ‘Har Khet ko Pani’ may be translated into reality. ICAR also contributed in preparing state specific action plans for scientific assessment of the supply and demand of water resources and their vulnerability to climate change under the National Water Mission. This would also be helpful to formulate annual State/Union Territory water budgets and hence, allocation and efficient utilization of available water resources. 

T. Mohapatra said that the government is working towards reducing the groundwater usage for irrigation purposes as currently the net irrigated area in agricultural sector draws 60% of water from groundwater resources and 40% from canal systems. The groundwater resources are seeing depletion due to indiscriminate withdrawal of groundwater, this decline of groundwater table is specially observed in the north-western and southern regions. However, in contrary, groundwater development in the eastern region is sub-optimal. The stage of groundwater development in India is 63.3%, among which, it is 166%, 140%, 137% and 120% in states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi, respectively, which has serious negative consequences. 

The growing gap between Irrigation Potential Created (IPC) and Irrigation Potential Utilized (IPU) and  uneven distribution of water over the length of the canal system is threatening to the irrigation sector in India, the gap between them has to be bridged. The overall irrigation efficiency of the major and medium irrigation projects is estimated to be around 38%. The efficiency of surface irrigation system can be improved from about 35-40% to around 50-60% and that of groundwater from about 65-70% to 72-75%. 

Adding on to the problems faced by the agricultural sector, T. Mohapatra added that inequity in water distribution, low irrigation efficiency (35-40%), mismatch between irrigation water supply and crop water demand, tail enders deprivation, irrigation induced salinity and waterlogging are some of the major challenges being faced in the canal commands. 

With a geological area of 328 M ha, India supports more than 18% of the world’s population with only 4.2% of freshwater resources. The annual precipitation of the country, including both rains and snowfall, is almost 4,000 billion cubic metres (BCM). This results into estimated average water potential of 1,869 BCM. Per capita annual water availability has declined from 5,177 m3 in 1951 to 1,508 m3 by 2014 and likely to reduce further to 1,465 m3 and 1,235 m3 by 2025 and 2050, respectively. Also the situation may seem to be more grave if anticipated impact of climate change on hydrology and water resources are also considered.

Thus, the initiatives to reduce and regularize the usage of non-renewable resources is important along with increased usage of renewable resources. If not done, then the situation may further deteriorate.

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