ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Climate Change and Water Supplies: Options for Sustaining Tank Irrigation Potential in India

Climate change will affect water supplies in south Asia, where high-intensity floods and droughts are expected in the future. Increasing water storage is a key adaptation strategy, and the experience of irrigation tanks illustrates both the potential and challenges of this adaptation response. Although there are over 2,08,000 tanks in India, irrigating about 2.3 million hectares in 2000-01, the net area irrigated by tanks declined by 29% between 1990-91 and 2000-01 and by 32% between 2001 and 2008. This paper reviews the challenges faced by tank irrigation and examines options for improving their performance - revenue mobilisation through multiple use of tanks, augmenting groundwater resources in the tanks, integrating social forestry and desilting, and tank modernisation.

Irrigation Institutions in a Dynamic Economy

India's water sector is crying for institutional and policy reforms. Its public irrigation systems are performing far below par. As a direct consequence, farmers are turning to groundwater for their irrigation needs. Booming groundwater irrigation has become the mainstay of Indian farming but it has also all but wrecked the country's power economy because of perverse policies of pricing of electricity for agriculture. Yet, there is no firm strategy of dealing with these and other challenges. Other south Asian countries are in much the same boat. Based on two spells of fieldwork in six provinces of north China, this article shows that, facing much the same problems as its south Asian neighbours, China is responding differently to its water problems. This is by no means a suggestion that the approaches China is trying out would work in India - or even in China itself. However, by including China's experience in its discussions, Indian policy-makers will clearly have a wider repertoire of institutional alternatives with which to experiment.
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