Skip to main content

Over-dependence on groundwater usage for irrigation: Gujarat average 72%, national 62%

By Persis Ginwalla, Sagar Rabari*
Over the three agriculture census periods (15 years), one can see that there has been an increase in overall holdings and the area under irrigation, and a net decrease in the unirrigated holdings and area in Gujarat. Increase in the irrigation cover in Gujarat is certainly significant, and is rightly attributed as one of the major reasons for the agricultural growth of Gujarat.
As per the Agriculture Census 2000-01, the percentage of wholly unirrigated holdings in Gujarat in 1995-96 was 63.94% of the total operational holdings which rose to 67.84% in 2000-01, and has seen a steady decline since. Similarly, the percentage of holdings receiving irrigation (wholly and partly) rose to 23.93% in 2000-01 from 20.39% in 1995-96 and has been on the rise since then.
Despite the impressive gain, more than half the agricultural land in Gujarat remains unirrigated. This means that around half of Gujarat’s agricultural area is rain-fed and/or dependent on groundwater irrigation. It must be also noted that irrigation figures include both surficial as well as groundwater. Therefore, the sources of irrigation need to be taken into account.
The most important sources of irrigation in the whole of Gujarat are wells, followed by tubewells. The percentage for both combined comes to 62.41% of the total irrigation sources in Gujarat. This is important, since both depend on groundwater extraction as against surficial water usage by canals and tanks which comes to 21.34% combined. 
Equally importantly, the share of tubewell irrigation has seen a steady increase over the last four censuses, which should be a source of concern. It indicates depletion of the groundwater tables necessitating the shift from wells to tubewells. Tubewells also indicate an increase in the input cost for the farmer since it means an expense associated with drilling and electricity for its operation.
Thus, while increase in irrigation cover of Gujarat may be impressive, it has come at the cost of overdependence on groundwater, raising serious concerns about the sustainability of agriculture. Also, this increase has been effected by farmers at great personal expense.
 
First of all, lacking alternatives, they are constantly going deeper to reach water sources. Deeper drilling means increased costs and faster depletion of the groundwater level, in turn entailing repeated drilling to go even deeper. At no point should it be interpreted as an achievement of the Gujarat government, which has done very little to eliminate this overdependence on groundwater resources.
Secondly, extraction of groundwater from deeper levels means that they require to install an electric motor of higher horse power (HP). This means more electricity consumption, but more crucially a shift in their ‘status’ from that of marginal, small or medium farmer to ‘large’ farmer, and hence a decrease in electricity subsidy that they would otherwise be eligible for.
Incidentally, there are reports that, despite a major state government initiative to recharge the groundwater table, Sujalam Sufalam Yojana, the incidence of dark zones has increased in the areas from which the canal passes. It implies that (a) water being pumped into the canal is not sufficient enough to recharge the groundwater; and/or, (b) the rate of extraction far exceeds the recharge rate.
The overall result is that groundwater depletion in Gujarat has reached an alarming level with one Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) study putting Gujarat among the top 15 states with depletion in water tables in wells between 2007 and 2016.
The Union ministry reportedly admitted in the Lok Sabha that of the 799 wells surveyed by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) in Gujarat, 473 wells (59%) across the state registered depletion in water levels from 2007 to 2016.
Of the 25 blocks examined by CWGB, 23 were found to be overexploited. The worst affected were the districts in North Gujarat, where depletion is more than 100% -- meaning that more water was being extracted from the ground than is replenished. Against the national average of 62% of groundwater resources used, Gujarat used 72%, and about 80% of this was used for irrigation, with groundwater water exploitation ranging from 30% to 150%.
In order to ensure sustainability and environmental balance, the use of surface water through harnessing it in dams and transmitting it via canals, needs to be expanded. And Gujarat has mainly invested, over the years since its formation, in dams and canals.
A survey of randomly selected dams from the website of Narmada Water Resources and Water Supply (NWRWS) department suggests there are massive gaps in information on many dams. The year on year area irrigated within the command zone is never provided. In many cases CCA (Culturable Command Area) exceeds the GCA (Gross Command Area) and the maximum irrigation (ha) exceeds the CCA!
Yet, data show that the maximum irrigation potential realised (except the erroneous reporting) has not exceeded 76%, which was achieved in 1996-97. The CAG report of 2016 (page 28) also confirms. It examined 22 irrigation schemes which have achieved an average irrigation of only 24%. It indicts the Gujarat government saying:
“There was no long term action plan for water conservation activities. Instead, the Department took up water conservation works, mainly, canal lining and desilting of dam reservoirs in a piecemeal manner. The average CCA achieved was only 24 per cent as against the CCA created for the irrigation under 53 Irrigation Projects during 2011-12 to 2015-16. This indicated sub-optimal performance in the water conservation activities.”
As for the Sardar Sarovar dam, the irrigation potential that had to be created, of 18,45,655 hectares (ha), as of 2017-18, it was languishing at 6,40,000 ha, which 34.67% of the total potential.
After almost 17 years of Narmada water flowing in the main canal, the canal network remains unfinished, and the most important component of the canal network, sub-minor canals, are at a mere 53.5% as per the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) Annual Report of 2016-17.
Clearly, the augmentation of the irrigation potential in Gujarat has been through groundwater extraction and poses adverse long-term impacts on sustainability of agriculture, so much so that nearly 22% (57 of the 252) blocks of the state have been declared as ‘dark zone’ talukas. Moreover, the augmentation has been through the effort and expense of individual farmers and not state government initiative.
---
*Development expert, senior farmers' activist. This is the abridged and edited version of the the original paper

Comments

TRENDING

India performs 'poorly' in Quality of Life Index, ranks 62nd out of 64 countries

Counterview Desk “Expat Insider”, which claims to be one of the world’s most extensive surveys about living and working abroad, in a survey of 20,259 participants from around the globe, has found that of the 64 destinations around the globe, has found that while Taiwan is the best destination for persons living outside their native country, closely by Vietnam and Portugal, India ranks 59th.

Youngest of 16 activists jailed for sedition, Mahesh Raut 'fought' mining on tribal land

By Surabhi Agarwal, Sandeep Pandey* A compassionate human being, always popular among his friends and colleagues because of his friendly nature and human sensitivity, 33-year-old Mahesh Raut, champion of the democratic rights of the marginalised Adivasi people of Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, has been in prison for over two years now.

India's GDP down by 50%, not 23%, job loss 200 million not 122 million: Top economist

By Our Representative  One of India’s topmost economists has estimated that India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) decline was around 50%, and not 23%, as claimed by the Government of India’s top data body, National Statistical Organization (NSO). Prof Arun Kumar, who is Malcolm S Adiseshiah chair professor, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, said this was delivering a web policy speech, organised by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

Human development index: India performs worse than G-20 developing countries

By Rajiv Shah A new book, “Sustainable Development in India: A Comparison with the G-20”, authored by Dr Keshab Chandra Mandal, has regretted that though India’s GDP has doubled over the last one decade, its human development indicators are worse than not just developed countries of the Group of 20 countries but also developing countries who its members.

Stan Swamy vs Arnab Goswami: Are activists fighting a losing battle? Whither justice?

By Fr Sunil Macwan SJ* It is time one raised pertinent questions over the courts denying bail to Fr Stan Swamy, who was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), and granting it to Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of the Republic TV, arrested under the charge of abetting suicide of Avay Naik, who ended his life in 2018. It is travesty of justice that a human rights activist is not only denied bail but is also made to wait for weeks to hear a response to his legitimate request for a straw to drink water, while Arnab Goswami walks free.

India among heavily impacted by Covid-19, China 'notoriously' evading transparency

By NS Venkataraman* With the year 2020 inevitably ending in the next few weeks, the thought amongst the people all over the world is whether the coming year 2021 will be free of Covid-19 (often dubbed as Wuhan virus, as it known to have spread from Wuhan in China).In the early 2020, many people thought that Covid-19 would be a localized affair in China but later on, it proved to be a global pandemic.

Namaz in Mathura temple: Haridwar, Ayodhya monks seek Faisal Khan's release

By Our Representative As many as 23 members of the Hindu Voices for Peace (HVP), including the founder president of the well-known Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Shivananda Saraswati, and a one of its top monks, Brahmachari Aatmabodhanand, have expressed their “dismay” over the arrest of Khudai Khidmatdar chief Faisal Khan and three others on charges of “promoting enmity between religions” and “defiling a place of worship” after they offered namaz in Mathura’s Nand Baba temple premises on October 29.

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

Government of India 'refuses' to admit: 52% of bird species show declining trend

Finn's Weaver  By Our Representative The Government of India has been pushing out “misleading” data on the country’s drastic wildlife decline, says a well-researched report, pointing towards how top ministers are hiding data on biodiversity losses, even as obfuscating its own data. It quotes “State of India’s Birds Report 2020” to note that of the 261 out of 867 bird species for which long-term trends could be determined, 52% have declined since the year 2000, with 22% declining strongly.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.