In a bid to address the growing level of stress on the availability of water posed by water-guzzling crops like rice and sugarcane, a study sponsored by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has recommended the need to recalibrate the cropping patterns prevalent in the country.
Shri Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation released a book titled “Water Productivity Mapping of Important Agricultural Crops of India”, which provided these recommendations, at a function held at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. Commending the work, he said, “Government is intensively working towards water management of existing resources. Apart from that, we also need to explore other sources such as desalination of sea water, recycling of drainage water. Every year about 70% of rain water drains away in the sea, which needs to be conserved in a way where dependency on existing dams is reduced. Government thrust on making micro irrigation and command area development has started showing good results already. Government is also encouraging export substitution for paper and pulp by promotion of bamboo plantations.” While appreciating NABARD’s efforts on supporting government plans and policies such as Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana, Har Khet ko Paani, Micro Irrigation Fund, etc, he sought NABARD’s support for interlinking of rivers and production of Ethanol from sugarcane’s byproduct Bagasse and rice straw. He further stressed like soil testing, water testing should also be encouraged and farmers should be enlightened about the same. Shri Gadkari also stressed on implementing out of box ideas to improve farmers’ situation across the country.
The first-of-its-kind book on water productivity highlighted significant misalignment between the cropping patterns and existing water resources vis-à-vis different crops and regions. To bridge this gap, the study stressed on the need to recalibrate the cropping patterns, particularly for water-intensive crops, taking into account the yield per unit of water applied instead of being content with their high land productivity alone. Moreover, the study estimated crop and water productivity of 10 major agricultural crops viz. rice, wheat, maize, chickpea, arhar, groundnut, rapeseed-mustard, sugarcane, cotton and potato.
The study observed an inverse relationship between productivity of irrigation and land hinting at wasteful use of water and recommended a four-pronged strategy to intensify water productivity: enhancing crop yields, containing non-beneficial evapotranspiration, better use of rainfall as well as surface and groundwater. Detailing the findings of the study, the book has suggested reforms in the price policy for both farm inputs and outputs that can incentivize efficient water use. Expanding area under micro-irrrigation, investing in water-harvesting and artificial recharge, participatory irrigation management are a few other interventions recommended in the book.
The book is based on the study conducted for NABARD by Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) under the leadership of Dr. Ashok Gulati, a leading agricultural economist and member on NABARD Board.
Welcoming the participants, Dr. H K Bhanwala, Chairman, NABARD articulated the context of NABARD launching the study. He advocated the need for improving water productivity while introducing the book. He indicated that NABARD would support more research and action research on enhancing water use efficiency. Prof Ashok Gulati highlighted the need for enhancing water productivity through policy interventions. Shri S K Pattanayak, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture talked about the importance of food security and need to sustain the unique advantage of different states in agriculture production. He emphasized the need to overhaul the water use policy. Shri U P Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation advocated the traditional method of water conservation and recharge. Shri H R Dave, DMD, NABARD assured that NABARD would continue to focus on water agenda through its large partnership with civil society organisations, banks and governments.