. There’s a lull this week in the progress of the southwest monsoon, the most important feature of India’s climate. Though Indian Metreological department (IMD) has forecast a normal monsoon this year, after two successive years of bountiful rainfall, the lull is a cause of concern. A little over 50% of India’s net sown area is under rainfed farming and a large part of the irrigated area depends on groundwater extraction through borewells. Therefore, long-term trends in the southwest monsoon overlap with economic security. In this context, a study last year by IMD on monsoon variability over a 30-year period (1989-2018) is a wakeup call. UP, Bihar and West Bengal are three of five states that have shown a significant decreasing trend in the southwest monsoon.
Water availability is a national challenge. India have 18% of the world’s population with just 4% of freshwater resources. This makes public policy of water use an area of far-reaching impact. Two trends have overwhelmed most other developments. First, inadequacies in public investment and, therefore, delivery of surface irrigation projects like canals have led to a rise in groundwater irrigation through borewells. This has been helped by free electricity for agriculture. Consequently, the share of borewells in irrigation has increased from 1% in 1960-61 to around 64% today. Second, this water use pattern is awfully inefficient. Indian farmers use two to four times more water than their Chinese counterparts to produce a unit of any major food crop.
Seen in the context of Indian metreological department’s finding that highly populated eastern states are recording dwindling returns from the southwest monsoon, such a farming model is unsustainable. Changes will include rethinking how policies in areas such as electricity are made. Electricity is an input everywhere and it can’t be put in a policy silo. A poorly framed power policy can have large negative externalities. Simultaneously, Indian agriculture needs to adopt newer, less water-intensive technologies faster. India’s water challenge is not insurmountable. It needs a doubling down on efforts such as the ongoing GoI scheme to incentivise the use of micro irrigation measures that use water more efficiently. We need more out of each drop.TSPSC Notes brings Prelims and Mains programs for TSPSC Prelims and TSPSC Mains Exam preparation. Various Programs initiated by TSPSC Notes are as follows:-
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