Give money to farmers who save water, India’s chief economic advisor tells government

Krishnamurthy SubramanianBCCL
  • The focus in agriculture should shift from ‘land productivity’ to ‘irrigation water productivity’, the economic survey says.
  • “The costs of installation of MI systems can be a disincentive unless subsidies are given by the government to small and marginal farmers.”
  • India grows a lot of water intensive crops. Minimum support prices (MSPs) and electricity and water subsidies offered to some crops like sugar have caused the cropping imbalance.
Saving water has to become a national priority in order to avert the looming water crisis of the country, according to economic survey tabled in the Parliament on Thursday.

“The focus in agriculture should shift from ‘land productivity’ to ‘irrigation water productivity’.

Therefore, devising policies to incentivise farmers to adopt efficient ways of water use should become a national priority,” the survey said.

In fact states which have high land productivity like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh which have high land productivity have low irrigation water productivity.

Looming Water Crisis

India is heading towards water insecurity and fast. Apart from many other factors, the country uses 89% of its groundwater to grow crops.

The economic survey released by the government says that use of micro-irrigation (MI) is extremely important. And it wants the large number of small and marginal farmers who own a major chunk of farm lands to adopt it.

“The costs of installation of MI systems can be a disincentive unless subsidies are given by the government to small and marginal farmers,” the economic survey said.

Micro irrigation can also be a panacea that solve many other problems that small farmers face. “States with penetration of MI systems and improved adoption of micro irrigation systems have almost 40- 50% savings in energy and fertiliser consumption,” the survey said pointing to all its benefits.

Cropping Imbalance

The survey also believes that the cropping patterns too change to improve productivity of new irrigation systems. India grows a lot of water intensive crops. Minimum support prices (MSPs) and electricity and water subsidies offered to some crops like sugar have caused the cropping imbalance.

“The water guzzlers, paddy and sugarcane, consume more than 60% of irrigation water available in the country, thereby reducing water availability for other crops,” the survey said.

See Also:
India's latest economic survey lays down the bare essentials for the economy to hit $5 trillion by 2025
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