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Water security in agriculture needs de-centralised solutions: Official

Currently 90 percent of fresh water is being used by agriculture. Without improving water use efficiency in agriculture, all efforts of water use elsewhere will not be meaningful

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Water security in agriculture is a local problem and requires de-centralised solutions. Currently we are using 90 percent of fresh water in agriculture. Without improving water use efficiency in agriculture, all efforts of water use elsewhere will not be meaningful, UP Singh, Secretary, Department of Water Resources, Government of India today said during speaking at national summit on ‘Investing in Future Through Sustainable Water Use Management in Agriculture’, organised by FICCI in New Delhi.

Singh said that we need to change our mindset and give emphasis on water productivity rather than just land productivity. He added that we must focus on water footprints, like carbon footprints, and urged the industry to play more active role in the overall development of the sector.

Emphasising on the need of water conservation in agriculture, Singh said that we need to adopt water recycle, and re-use policy in agriculture sector which has provisions for mandates and incentivisation. “The more water we consume, more wastewater is generated. Many states have already started adopting this policy. You need to either mandate people or incentivise people. This kind of policy will have both mandating certain use and providing incentives,” he added.

Highlighting the environment concerns, Singh said that we must also consider revisiting the current government procurement policy which mainly focuses on wheat and rice. It is important that states and farmers must be incentivised for other crops as well. “Today, we don't grow crops based on water endowment and topography of that particular area.

Addressing the summit, Alka Bhargava, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, Government of India said that improved productivity is key to sustainability. “We have started adopting artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies to check soil moisture and cropping patterns. We are also looking at the use of grey water in agriculture to reduce dependence on ground water,” she added.

Speaking on the need of better cooperation between the Centre, states and various ministries on water use efficiency, TR Kesavan, Chairman, FICCI National Agriculture Committee and Group President, Tractors and Farm Equipment (TAFE) said the government should draft a policy on creating an agriculture council so that Centre, state and various ministries work for the betterment of the sector.

Dr Ajai Kumar, Head-South Asia, Govt and Industry Affairs, Corteva Agriscience said, all stakeholders including agriculture industry, policy-makers and regulators need to align while keeping farmers at its centre in making agriculture ‘Climate Positive.’

Dr AK Padhee, Director, Country Relations and Business Affairs, International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) said that conservation and sustainable management of natural resources, including water, demands priority action in the policy agenda.

FICCI-PwC report on ‘Plugging India’s agri-water gap: Sustainable and innovative approaches’ was released during the event.

Recommendations of the report

  • Promote water productivity and water security in the country
  • Need for robust policy framework and institutional structure
  • Accelerating innovation in water conservation to sustain current and future water demand
  • Government needs to consider promoting irrigation industry to capitalise on water use efficiency by bringing it under the infrastructure category
  • Need to have a long-term and futuristic approach, adapting smart and climate-resilient agricultural practices for water-deficient and water-abundant regions
  • Managing water as an economic good to ensure water efficiency and sustainability
  • Creating a sustainable ecosystem for hydro-economic models
  • Current situation demands innovation in financing irrigation infrastructure for prudent economics and judicious water usage
  • Water scarcity in agriculture calls for National Integrated Agriculture Water Policy
4 Votes with an average with 4
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