Need to promote water-efficient crops, talk about water footprint

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JP GUPTA
New Delhi: India needs to focus on promoting water-efficient crops and talk about ‘water footprint’ as much as ‘carbon footprint’ because the country has already become a water-stressed nation, Ministry of Jal Shakti Secretary UP Singh feels.

Jal Shakti Ministry Secretary U P Singh

Speaking at an event in New Delhi, Mr Singh said the per capita availability of water is coming down with rise in population, and if steps were not taken now the country would be exporting precious water.

Stating that the time has come to talk about water footprint as much as carbon footprint, the Secretary said it is because “even a cup of coffee that we take in the morning has water footprint of 140 litres. For growing that much of coffee that you take in the morning, 140 litres of water is required.

The country cannot afford to grow water-guzzling crops in water stressed areas, he said. Latest data shows that 89 per cent of water is used for agriculture purpose in India, where about 50 per cent of the farm land is irrigated while it is only 20 per cent world over.

“We have same area but other countries produce double. They consume 60 per cent of water, we consume 89 per cent of water. There is tremendous scope in improving water-use efficiency,” Singh said.

He said farming pattern needs to be changed according to demography . “Punjab was not growing paddy till early 1980s. Its water table is not good and rainfall is only 500-700 mm. There are areas where we get 2,000 mm rainfall, we should grow paddy there not in Punjab. We should grow sugarcane not in Maharashtra, but we are growing,” he said.

Farmers are doing it as there is a policy to supply free electricity to them for pumping water. Moreover, Punjab hardly uses drip irrigation because the state government thinks it is not suitable for paddy.

Currently, ground water exploitation in India is 25 per cent of the total ground water extracted all over the world. The country extracts more ground water than China and the US put together.

Noting that tube wells contributed for achieving Green Revolution in India, the Secretary said Ganga river canals do not irrigate more than 25 per cent of the farm land in Uttar Pradesh. Tube wells irrigate 80 per cent of farm land in the state.

In Punjab also, 77 per cent of the farm land is irrigated from tube wells and pumps. Tube wells have been the solution not only for agriculture but also for drinking purpose.

The Secretary also talked about the need to have water budget at gram panchayat level and setting up of Water Use Efficient Authority to promote and regulate water usage.
(With agency inputs)

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