India keeps the farmers’ interest foremost in its research programmes and there is a need to optimize the resources’ use efficiency, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Radha Mohan Singh said while addressing the Plenary Session of 9th Berlin Agriculture Ministers’ Conference at Berlin, Germany today.
Singh said that water is certainly the most critical resource for agriculture, gaining primacy even on other important inputs like soil. The competing use of water for agriculture and non-agricultural purposes, inefficient irrigation practices, injudicious use of pesticides, poor conservation infrastructure, and lack of governance have lead to increasing water scarcity and pollution worldwide.
The Indian Minister said that distribution of water resources across the vast expanse of the country is uneven, therefore, as incomes rise the need for water also raises. Singh said that as per the international norms, a country is classified as Water Stressed and Water Scarce, if per capita / year water availability goes below 1700 m3 and 1000 m3, respectively. With 1544 m3 per capita / year water availability, India is already a water-stressed country and moving towards turning water scarce.
He said that efficient use of irrigation water requires that water be applied to growing crops at appropriate times and in adequate amounts and the main task will be to produce more from less water by efficient use of utilizable water resources in irrigated areas and enhance productivity of challenged ecosystems, i.e., rainfed and water logged areas.
Singh informed that most of the irrigation projects are operating at levels below the achievable efficiency of more than 50 per cent and there is enormous scope to improve the productivity and efficiency of irrigation systems which can be achieved both by technological as well as social interventions. He said that it is estimated that with 10 per cent increase in the present level of efficiency in irrigation projects, an additional 14 million hectare area can be irrigated from the existing irrigation capacities which would involve a very modest investment compared to what is required for creating equivalent potential through new schemes. Therefore, there is need to adopt an integrated approach with emphasis on greater conservation and enhanced water use efficiency.
Singh further said that efficiency-mediated improvement in productivity is the most viable option to raise production. Development of new crop varieties with more efficient photosynthesis and shorter duration would be of immense help in increasing cropping intensity.
He said that there are several technologies developed by the Indian institutions. Adoption of Resource Conserving Technologies (RCTs) lead to an improvement in productivity compared to traditional hand transplanting at different locations. The prevailing farming situation in India calls for an integrated effort to address the emerging issues / problems.