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Groundwater depleting rapidly: new irrigation system the need of the day

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Per capita availability of water is likely to touch 1,399 in 2025

AB Wire

water-drop

Pre-monsoon rains have started in many parts of India, like in coastal Maharashtra, Bombay, Calcutta, Bengaluru, and Uttarakhand. The India Meteorological Department (IMD), the official weather forecasting agency, predicted a normal to normal plus monsoon this year, confirming the forecast of Skymet, a private agency that predicted that India’s monsoon rainfall is expected to be ‘above average.’

Still, India is a highly water distressed country. The World Resource Institute’s March 2016 report says that almost 54 percent India is water stressed with water scarcity being severe to acute and most parts of the country, save Eastern & Western Ghats and Himalayan regions.

This put an unprecedented pressure on groundwater and as although it is a common property; any person having enough power can extract as much groundwater as he can. In fact, groundwater meets 85 percent rural water supply, 55 percent urban water supply, 50 percent industrial water supply and India’s irrigation is mostly groundwater well based that meets 67 percent of its total irrigation, making India the world’s largest groundwater irrigation system (China with 19 mha is second, USA with 17 mha is third) as per International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID) report available at : http://www.icid.org/imp_data.pdf.

Almost 85 percent water is used in India for agricultural needs, although just 36.3 percent of India’s agricultural land was irrigated in 2010 as per the World Bank’s report available at http://beta.data.worldbank.org and Indian farmers use much more water than their Chinese counterparts, but still their crop productivity, especially of paddy is much low.

As per capita availability of water has shrunk from 5,410 cubic meters in 1951 to 1,588 in 2011 and is expected to touch 1,399 in the year 2025, we have to focus on alternative system of farming.

Here comes a farming technique called Systematic Production of Rice or SRI that that was developed by Fr Henri de Laulanie, a Jesuit Priest in Madagascar in the early 1980s.

Today, it is used in many states with a significant advantage over traditional farming. The author found in a study in Uttarakhand and Bundelkhand regions where People’s Science Institute, a Dehradun based non-profit organization is promoting it, that it requires 60 percent less water than traditional paddy as seeds are sowed at fixed intervals in well-prepared fields that are cleaned of all weeds, but yields 86 percent more food grains and 76 percent most straw, a must for the livestock of Indian farmers.

Moreover, no chemical fertilizers are used in this system of farming, but only organic manure called panchgavya, or the manure prepared by the farmers themselves, using  the five substances of cow: milk, curd, ghee, cow dung and cow urine.

Now, the SRI farming technique has spread beyond paddy and wheat, legumes and even the water guzzling sugarcane as reported by SRI-India in its website: http://www.sri-india.net.

If the entire country adopts this technique of farming, India will not be as water stressed as it is at present.