Monday, September 17, 2012
India: Making Better Use of Water Resources
Farmers in many parts of the country utilised groundwater to save their crops when monsoon played truant this year.
Groundwater’s use for agriculture assumes significance since only 44 per cent of the net sown area of 140 million hectares is irrigated.
Due to unplanned development, overexploitation of ground water resources has resulted in considerable decline in ground water.
About 15 per cent of the blocks, talukas and mandals in the country are currently in the over-exploited zones.
Also, the over-use of surface water has resulted in drainage problem in irrigation, causing water logging in some areas.
Pollution of river and deterioration in the quality of ground water are other added problems.
Pollution has mainly been caused by untreated sewage from the urban areas and effluent from the industry.
Excessive use of chemicals and fertilisers and pesticides is another reason for pollution.
These issues call for further development of water resources to meet the growing demand, particularly for irrigation, industrial use and drinking.
According to the Ministry of Water Resources, there is a need to bring more cropped area under assured irrigation to increase productivity and production.
A policy paper of the Ministry has estimated the irrigation potential of the country at 140 million hectares. Surface water is seen meeting the requirements of 76 million hectares and ground water the rest.
The Ministry is in constant dialogue with various arms of the Government to harness the available irrigation potential.
In fact, the Centre prefers to see irrigation potential beyond the identified 140 million hectares through better water management practices. Given the hydrological features and topographical constraints in the country, this is a challenging task. But surplus flood water is one source that can be utilised to tap the irrigation potential.
One way for this could be interlinking of rivers and this is seen as helping to provide irrigational facilities for 35 million hectares.
Artificial recharge of ground water could also help in additional water availability of about 36 billion cubic metres that can be utilised for various purposes included irrigation.
Water is seen as the solution to challenges of food security and climate change impact in developing countries.
Though the impact of climate change on water resources is yet to be made, various studies say that this could lead to intensification of the variation in the availability of water. In particular, there could extreme events of flood and drought.
The emerging situation calls for various methods to save water. One of the ways could be to harvest rain water.
Very few States in the country have taken the initiative. The other way could be to construct check dams so that water can not only be preserved but the groundwater can also be recharged.
Recycling water for irrigation and industrial use can be another way. Also, water for irrigation is free in the country and power to draw water is also free in most States.
A review of these is another way to preserve water besides ensuring its proper usage.