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:
- Source augmentation and restoration of waterbodies
- Source augmentation (Groundwater)
- Major and medium irrigation—Supply side management
- Watershed development—Supply side management
- Participatory irrigation practices—Demand side management
- Sustainable on-farm water use practices—Demand side management
- Rural drinking water
- Urban water supply and sanitation
- 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.
- 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