Enhancing Water Resources Management

Dr. Banarsi Lal

India has the world’s 2.45 per cent area and 4% of the world’s fresh water resources while India’s contribution to the word’s population is around 17.31%.India uses about 230 cubic kilometers of groundwater annually which is more than a quarter of the global total, making it the world’s largest user of groundwater. We don’t realize that water is the scarcest natural endowment in the world. About 90 per cent of the groundwater extracted is used for irrigation and over 60 per cent of the irrigated land in India is supported primarily by groundwater supplies. Out of the total water available on the earth, only 0.007% is available for human consumption. The per capita availability of water in the Asian countries is the lowest in the world. There is a need of overall policy approach to conserve this precious resource. The National Water Policy has allocated the supply of water for drinking, irrigation, ecology, hydropower, agro and non-agro industries and many other uses. The net sown area of the country is around 142 million hectares while the per capita availability of water is declining. Now the alternative left to increase the productivity through improved irrigation methods. The farmers are being educated about the prudent use of irrigation water and metered irrigation water supply. There is a need to recycle the water used by the industries to take care of the continuous increasing demand of industrial water. The agricultural scientists also suggest for reducing the evaporation. There is also the need to tackle the sedimentation of reservoirs. The per capita availability of water varies in the range of 300 to 13754 cubic meters per year with the average per capita availability is 1545 cubic meter in 2011 which was 1829 cubic meters in 2001.The per capita availability of water is reducing due to increase of population pressure. The conditions will go on worsening in future and by 2050 the projected per capita availability of water of 1121 cubic meters would bring the country on the threshold of water scarce conditions. It is estimated that by 2050 about 76% of population and 70% of area of the country will be on the verge of affected health and economic activities with water availability of less than 1000 cubic meters. It is also estimated that by 2050, 17% of the country population and 22% of the geographical area will be under absolute water scarcity conditions.
Agriculture is the backbone of our country. Rigorous efforts are needed for the agricultural intensification, diversification, value addition, creating employment etc. Irrigation is very helpful for increasing the agricultural production and productivity. Unregulated extraction and non-replenishment has reduced groundwater drastically and deteriorated its quality. The crisis has worsened further due to climate change which causes erratic and intense rainfall. There is need to harness the availability of water. The irrigated area in the country is only around 56 million hectares. As per Metrological Department of India, 76 per cent of the rainfall in India occurs due to Southwest monsoon between June and September except in Tamil Nadu where rainfall occurs in North-East monsoon during October and November. It has been observed that India receives an average annual precipitation of about 4,000 Billion Cubic Meters including snowfall. However because of hydrological, topographical and other constraints, only around 690 Billion Cubic Meters of the available water can be utilized. About 60 per cent of the total water resources comes from the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna system. In fact only 274 Billion Cubic Meters is utilizable from the 1111Billion Cubic Meters water resource from the Ganga-Brahamputra-Meghna basin.
There is need of planning for the management of water resources in our country. The demand of water for the industrial and agricultural use is continuously increasing. There is a need to work out the ways and means for judicious use of water for the industrial and agricultural purposes. The water can be used by recycling system in case of industries. For this purpose the water treatment plants should be established. The evaporation and evapotranspiration losses should be reduced. The mulching material can be used in case of agricultural crops for prevention of evaporation. The agricultural scientists should pay attention on reduction of evapotranspiration.The sedimentation of reservoirs is very important from the water available utilization point of view. The water storage in the dams reduces the intensity of floods. Major, medium and minor irrigation schemes need to be developed. Tank system has lot of scope in case of minor irrigation schemes. There is need for the modernization and renovation of water resources on priority basis. By developing the minor irrigation projects for the farmers, tube bells and bore wells are better options for poverty alleviation. Commercial Banks, National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) and Co-operative Banks help can be taken for the individual loans for the farmers as well as in cooperatives. Command Area Development Programme can be taken for the achievement of water potential.
Around two-fifth of India’s agricultural output comes from ground water and irrigated areas. Rain water harvesting in the rural and urban areas need to be on priority basis. Roof water harvesting is also very helpful in the urban and town areas for water storage. In rural areas rain water harvesting through check dams can meet the local irrigation and drinking water needs of the people. The Government control over the operation and maintenance of irrigation system should be effective. Many external agencies have facilitated both financial and institutional aid in the water sector. Although many initiatives have been implemented but the fact remains that there is no massive enhancement in crop productivity. The productivity of crops is still very low even in irrigated areas. The main cause of low productivity is low efficiency in regard to conveyance, distribution and application of irrigation. The irrigated land farmers are not fully satisfied with the irrigation system. Inequality in water distribution is very common. Some fields are damaged due to over irrigation and consequent problem of water logging while some fields lack irrigation. Water drainage is another problem. Sometimes the salt accumulation takes place which comes up to the surface of water causing irreversible damage to the soil. Although the per capita availability of water is gradually declining while the net cultivated area of the country has still remained around 142 million hectares. The only alternative left to increase the productivity of crops is through improved irrigation efficiency. There is need to improve the water use efficiency. It has been observed that if we increase the water use efficiency by 10% then around 14 million hectares more area can be covered under irrigation. Very moderate investment is required to increase the water use efficiency as compared to create the new potential schemes. It is our responsibility to educate and re-educate the farmers about the judicious use of water. Metered irrigation and water audits are required. The harmful effects of over irrigation effects should be discussed with the farmers. Watershed management schemes should be implemented in the rained areas to increase the crop productivity. Crop planning and short duration crops should be sown in the areas where there is scarcity of water. The low cost irrigation technologies like simple sprinkler irrigation and drip irrigation system, bio-drainage for controlling water-logging conditions etc. should be implemented. It is hoped that we will be able to mitigate the utilization of water resources.
(The writer is Chief Scientist & Head, KVK, Reasi Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and

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