Editorial✍ Financial Express Prelims cum Mains

Watering sustainability in the states Editorial 16th June’18 Financial Express

India’s water stress:

  • India is experiencing a rising water-stress.
  • Nearly 600 million Indians face high to extreme water stress and about 2,00,000 people died every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  • Critical groundwater resources, which accounted for 40% of India’s water supply, are getting depleted at unsustainable rates and up to 70% of India’s water supply is contaminated.
  • In view of limitations on availability of water resources and rising demand for water, sustainable management of water resources has acquired critical importance.

Composite Water Management Index (CWMI):

  • NITI Aayog has now come up with the Composite Water Management Index as a useful tool to assess and improve the performance in efficient management of water resources.
  • The CWMI is the first comprehensive collection of country-wide water data in India.
  • The Index comprises nine themes covering:
    1. Source augmentation and restoration of waterbodies
    2. Source augmentation (Groundwater)
    3. Major and medium irrigation—Supply side management
    4. Watershed development—Supply side management
    5. Participatory irrigation practices—Demand side management
    6. Sustainable on-farm water use practices—Demand side management
    7. Rural drinking water
    8. Urban water supply and sanitation
    9. Policy and governance
  • The index is a major step towards creating a culture of databased decision-making for water in India, which can encourage ‘competitive and cooperative federalism’ in the country’s water governance and management.

Ranking of states according to Composite Water Index Scores (FY 16-17):

  • Water Index scores vary widely across states, but most states have achieved a score below 50% and could significantly improve their water resource management practices.
  • 24 States for which data was available were ranked as follows:
    • High performers (score > 65 %) – 3 states (Gujarat, MP and AP)
    • Medium performers – (50-65%) – 7 states
    • Low performers – (< 50%) – 14 states
      • Low performers are concentrated across the populous agricultural belts of North and East India, and among the North-Eastern and Himalayan states.

Huge scope for improvement:

  • Only 10 states out of 24 have scored 50 or more, and just three score more than 60.
  • This means that there is huge scope for improvement in most states.

To encourage efficient and optimal utilization of water:

  • Water is a State subject and its optimal utilization and management lies predominantly within the domain of the States.
  • The NITI analysis of how states fare in their efforts under nine major themes should help each state identify problem areas and work out potential solutions.
  • It is an attempt to inspire States and UTs towards efficient and optimal utilization of water, and recycling thereof with a sense of urgency.
  • The index can be utilised by States and concerned Central Ministries/Departments to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water resources.



  • The NITI report projects water stress shaving 6% off the potential GDP of the country by 2030.
  • In a ‘high use’ scenario, India’s water requirement in 2050 will reach 1,180 billion cubic metres (bcm) against the current availability of 695 bcm (as per the Union ministry of water resources).
  • This only presents a partial picture.

But country receives enough rain and snow:

  • It is not that India is water-deficient—a 2016 Kotak Institutional Equities report points out, the country receives nearly 2,600 bcm of rain and snow-melt even in a bad year.
  • But, it can store a mere 253 bcm.

Problem is two-fold:

  • India’s water problem is two-fold:
    • Grossly inadequate storage capacity
    • Poor management of usage


ICRIER report on farm usage of water

  • Recently, NABARD also released a study by ICRIER on farm usage of water titled “Water Productivity Mapping of Major Indian Crops”.
  • Today, Indian agriculture uses almost 80% of all the country’s water resources, which are increasingly under stress.
  • Out of the irrigation water, 60% is used for just rice and sugarcane that account for just 24% of the gross cropped area in the country.

Some states with high land-productivity have poor water productivity:

  • Punjab has a land-productivity of 3,921 kg/ha for rice versus Bengal’s 2,802 kg, but when it comes to water productivity, Bengal delivers Rs. 9.34 per cubic metre of water versus Punjab’s Rs. 3.81.
  • Similarly, while Bihar needs just 799 litres to produce 1 kg of sugar, Maharashtra, a major cane-growing state, needs 2.7 times as much water.

Need to move to water-productivity:

  • India, thus, must move from land-productivity to water-productivity for sowing decisions.


Low water-productivity is not captured in NITI report:

  • The NITI report ranks water-wasting Maharashtra and Punjab 5th and 6th, respectively, among the non-Himalayan states in the index.
  • This is because the nine parameters that NITI considers do not take water-productivity into account.
  • In sustainable on-farm water-use practices, Maharashtra is ranked third.
  • Maharashtra uses two-thirds of its water for sugarcane grown on just 4% of its land, and yet it is ranked second for “area cultivated by adopting standard cropping pattern as per agro-climatic zoning, to total area under cultivation.”
  • Despite Punjab’s unsustainable rice-cultivation, it is ranked 10th amongst non-Himalayan states for sustainable on-farm water-use.
  • NITI uses other indicators to judge states on this parameter, but it will still need to address such methodological issues in future updates.


Way forward:

  • The states and the Centre must fix policy gaps that encourage unsustainable use of water.
  • This will mean that states like Punjab/Maharashtra must start charging for farm-use of water.
  • At the central level, the pricing policy must get more rational.
  • The Centre must give higher MSPs to less resource-intensive crops.
  • The Centre also needs to fix its procurement policy. It must tell states that it will procure from their farmers if they keep water-productivity in mind.
    • The central procurement in Punjab should shift from paddy to, say, maize, while more paddy is procured from Bengal.



GS Paper III: Economy; Environment

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