Skip to main content

Indiscriminate installation of solar pumps in India would sharply deplete groundwater levels, warns top expert

By Our Representative
One of the topmost Indian experts on water resource management, Prof Tushaar Shah, has warned that the massive unplanned drive, which has begun across the country, to allow installation of highly subsidized solar pumps to suck out scarce groundwater resources for irrigation may cause a major environmental disaster, if not properly handled.
Talking with newspersons at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA), Prof Shah, who is with the prestigious Columbia-based International Water Management Institute (IWMI), with an office in Anand, Gujarat, said, “So far, in our estimation, around 45,000 solar pumps have been installed across India, 25,000 in Rajasthan alone”, adding, “In Gujarat, 1,500 such pumps have been installed.”
Pointing out that states are offering “huge subsidies” of 70 to 95 per cent (Rajasthan and Gujarat, respectively) for installing solar pumps up to the capacity of 5 kilowatts (KW), up from 2 KW earlier, Prof Shah said, this is already leading farmers to install them "indiscriminately" as they find it as a “far cheaper source of groundwater irrigation than diesel or electricity.”
“Our estimate is, given the massive pressure from the farming community and reducing price of solar pumps, there would be around one million such pumps across India by 2020”, Prof Shah said, adding, “Unregulated, this would mean that the farmers would use the pumps to suck out scarce water without restriction, as they would find it extremely cheap, almost free.”
“In fact, in the next two-three years, the prices of solar pumps would fall to such an extent that there would be need for subsidies”, Prof Shah said, adding, “With virtually no maintenance cost if properly cleaned up on a regular basis, the farmers would be attracted to use as much groundwater as they want, and even well it.”
“Clearly, the haphazard installation of pumps would lead to a sharp rise in groundwater depletion”, he said, adding, “I drew the attention of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley about it, as also officials of the water resources and power ministries. However, none appear keen to come to grips with the problem. State governments seem equally oblivion.”
Solution: Pointing towards the need to urgently look for the solution which IWMI has found on an experimental basis, Prof Shah said, “In Dhundi village in Anand district, we have formed, with the help of Amul, a cooperative of the farmers using solar pumps, with the state-owned power distribution company, Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Limited (MGVCL), buying up any extra power which farmers produce from solar pump after using groundwater for irrigation. As of July 31, the farmers sold 5,097 units of electricity the MGVCL, which agreed to pay them Rs 4.63 per unit.”
“These units could have been used to pump an additional 25 million litres of groundwater, but as it was more profitable for the farmers sell power to MGVCL grid, they opted for the latter”, Prof Shah said, adding, “Before the cooperative, farmers were using diesel pumps which have now been replaced by solar pumps.”
“We believe, the farmers should be offered Rs 7 or Rs 7.50 per unit, so that evacuating power produced from solar pumps becomes even more attractive”, Prof Shah said, adding, “If this happens, the possibility of achieving the National Solar Mission aim of reaching 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022 would become very easy, pushing to the backdrop rooftop solar systems and MW-scale solar power plants.”

Comments

sekhar said…
Interesting article. Is there any info on Maharashtra state scheme on promoting solar pumps?

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Living standards in 'model' Gujarat worse than major states: Govt of India document

By Rajiv Shah  Amidst raging controversy over whether the latest Government of India’s “Household Consumption Expenditure Survey 2022-23 Fact Sheet: August 2022-July 2023” suggests that India’s poverty levels are actually down to 4.5 to 5%  during the decade-long Narendra Modi rule, a state-wise breakup in the 27-page document shows that “model” Gujarat’s average consumption expenditure is far below most of the so-called developed states.

Not livable in summer, Chitrakut PM-Awas houses 'push' tribals in moneylender trap

By Bharat Dogra*  Those who are in-charge of implementing the PM-Awas scheme of rural housing can rightly take pride in what has been achieved in Dafai hamlet (Karvi block, Chitrakut district, Uttar Pradesh). All the Kol tribal families here are extremely poor and vulnerable. In a rare achievement, almost all of them have received housing assistance under PM Awas. 

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.

Development? This tribal hamlet in Chitrakut has no toilets, no electricity connections yet

By Bharat Dogra*  As we moved away from the starting point of the Bundelkhand Expressway and a famous pilgrimage site into a side-road, the hills of Chitrakut here appeared to be more and more isolated. Another turn, and we appeared to have reached almost a dead-end. However it is here that over 80 households of the Kol tribal community have been living for a long time.

Narmada Valley's fossil evidence: Ground for 'nationalists' to argue primates' India roots?

By Saurav Sarkar*  In December 1982, a geologist digging in India’s Central Narmada Valley found something he did not expect. Arun Sonakia, who at the time worked for the Geological Survey of India, unearthed a hominid fossil skullcap from the Pleistocene era. The discovery sent shockwaves through the field of paleoanthropology and put South Asia on the map of human prehistory. Some experts concluded that the skull likely belonged to a member of a predecessor species of ours, Homo heidelbergensis , or perhaps was a hybrid of homo species, while Sonakia himself suggested “ an affinity… to Homo erectus .”