How to avert water crises




Smarter irrigation can help avert water crises

To ensure Har Khet Ko Pani, GoI should emulate irrigation policies followed by Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, say researchers.

(New Delhi, 30 May): As parts of the country struggle to recover from some of the worst droughts in living memory, improved irrigation policies could help avoid such problems in future, as well as boosting food production and farm incomes. India nationally can learn from the radical approaches adopted by Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh which have already shown how better water management can benefit farmers. That was the message emerging from a policy consultation organised by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) held at the India Habitat Centre today, and attended by, among others, Amarjit Singh, secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, Dr Sandeep Dave. Joint secretary, Neeranchal administration, IWMP and Mr Jeremy Bird, Director General, IWMI. “We have to improve the management of irrigation systems to ensure that our investment delivers.” Said Dr Amarit Singh adding that comprehensive planning besides demand side management is required. He also appreciated the value and timing of IWMI’s inputs. Jeremy Bird, IWMI’s Director General added, “IWMI is undertaking action based research to help better inform policy making. We should look across sectors with multiple benefits and work on common priorities by focusing on innovation in policy, technical aspects and management.” “After 67 years of irrigation investment, 6.8 crore out of India’s 13.8 crore farm holdings have no source of irrigation whatever,” said Tushaar Shah, leader of IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program, a 15 year old research partnership between Tata Trusts and IWMI, which is based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, but has offices in New Delhi and Anand. “The objective of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana should be to provide sustainable quality irrigation to the 6.8 rainfed farm holdings,” Shah added. IWMI-Tata research has confirmed that new policies have enabled Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have expanded irrigation coverage by over 10 percent/year. Irrigation expansion has helped these states achieve agricultural growth rate above 10 percent per year during recent years.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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