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ET EDIT-At Last, Some Sense on Managing Water

July 27, 2019 05:47 AM


At Last, Some Sense on Managing Water
It is most welcome that the Centre has reportedly endorsed the idea of levying a conservation fee for groundwater usage nationwide on residential complexes, industries and agriculture. Reasonable nominal fees can add-up and provide much-needed resources for rainwater harvesting, aquifer recharge and storage. Intensive use of groundwater has produced a crisis of sustainability, most districts facing fast-falling water tables and rising water stress.

Particularly noteworthy is the proposal to bring agriculturalists with more than 3-5 hectares of land, or nearly 10% of our 14.5 crore farmers, under the purview of groundwater regulation. We need participatory and transparent management of our groundwater resources by the stakeholders concerned. That calls for strong partnership arrangements among government agencies, research institutes, local self-government bodies, industrial units and civil society organisations, with the local community duly empowered and involved. Groundwater meets nearly twothirds of our irrigation needs and rising, even as water tables keep falling. In the last 40 years, about 84% of total addition to irrigation has come from groundwater, which clearly needs reversing. And fast.

In tandem, subsidy on power, fertiliser and procurement has further distorted and artificially shored up demand for groundwater at our peril. Instead of water-guzzling crops like sugarcane and paddy in areas that do not suit these crops, farmers need to be incentivised to shift to crops suited for their agroclimatic conditions — millets and soya, for example. We need to boost resources for canal maintenance as well. Annual water audits for industry to rev up usage efficiency brook no delay. Political will must be summoned to manage water.

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