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

Tushaar ShahSubscribe to Tushaar Shah

Kick-starting a Second Green Revolution in Bengal

Two decisions taken by the Government of West Bengal, one, to facilitate easier extraction of groundwater, and the other, the application of a fi xed connection fee for an electricity connection to farmers could well lead to a quantum leap in agricultural production.

Accelerated Programmes: What Can the Water Sector Learn from the Power Sector?

The Government of India's 15-year old Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme has come under much-deserved criticism for all-round non-performance. The AIBP needs to be taken back to the drawing board and redesigned, based on the Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme, which encourages and supports states to undertake management reform, promote accountability, restructure incentives and improve all-round performance of power utilities. This will accelerate irrigation benefits more than simply funding more dams and canals as the AIBP has done all along.

Secret of Gujarat's Agrarian Miracle after 2000

Semi-arid Gujarat has clocked high and steady growth at 9.6% per year in agricultural state domestic product since 1999-2000. What has driven this growth? The Gujarat government has aggressively pursued an innovative agriculture development programme by liberalising markets, inviting private capital, reinventing agricultural extension, improving roads and other infrastructure. Canal-irrigated South and Central Gujarat should have led Gujarat's agricultural rally. Instead it is dry Saurashtra and Kachchh, and North Gujarat that have been at the forefront. These could not have performed so well but for the improved availability of groundwater for irrigation. Arguably, mass-based water harvesting and farm power reforms have helped energise Gujarat's agriculture.

Will the Impact of the 2009 Drought Be Different from 2002?

Groundwater, which has emerged as India's prime adaptive mechanism in times of drought, will play a crucial role this year since the aquifers were recharged in 2006-08. The impact of the drought of 2009 will therefore be less severe than the drought of 2002. Beyond the immediate response, we need to think long term. Instead of pumping money into dams and canals, Indian agriculture will be better off investing in "groundwater banking". This involves storing surplus flood waters in aquifers which can be drawn upon in times of need.

India's Master Plan for Groundwater Recharge: An Assessment and Some Suggestions for Revision

The government's Groundwater Recharge Master Plan reflects belated recognition of the growing criticality of groundwater for the Indian economy. The plan aims to raise post-monsoon groundwater levels to three metres below ground level through annual "managed artificial recharge" of 36.4 km3 by constructing some four million spreading-type recharge structures at a cost of Rs 25,000 crore. While this is a step in the right direction, the revised master plan under preparation needs to incorporate socio-economic, institutional and administrative parameters that underpin the implementation of any major change intervention. This paper provides an assessment of the existing plan and offers suggestions for revision.

Groundwater Management and Ownership: Rejoinder

Although a lot more needs to be done to evolve a better strategy for managing the groundwater economy, a copybook transposition of the Californian and Spanish formula as argued in these columns 'Groundwater Management and Ownership' (February 16) seems naïve, even disingenuous. A groundwater governance regime for a country like India cannot be dealt with only from the earth science perspective but involves a broader grasp of the organisation of the groundwater economy and its underlying socio-economic dynamics.

Co-Management of Electricity and Groundwater: An Assessment of Gujarat's Jyotirgram Scheme

In September 2003, the government of Gujarat introduced the Jyotirgram Yojana to improve rural power supply. Two major changes have since taken place: (a) villages get 24 hour three-phase power supply for domestic use, in schools, hospitals, village industries, all subject to metered tariff; and (b) tubewell owners get eight hours/day of power but of full voltage and on a pre-announced schedule. It has, however, offered a mixed bag to medium and large farmers and hit marginal farmers and the landless. This article offers an assessment of the impact of Jyotirgram, and argues that with some refinements it presents a model that other states can follow with profit.

Crop Per Drop of Diesel?

India's smallholder irrigation is in the grip of an energy squeeze and is proving the proverbial last straw on the camel's back. Marginal farmers and sharecroppers are particularly badly hit. Typically, they depend on pump owners for renting pumps, and even as prices have stayed put, the rental rates have risen in tandem with every diesel price hike because of the monopoly power of pump owners in these localised, village-level, informal oligopolies. Pump rentals have also tended to be downwardly sticky - they rise when diesel prices jump but stay put when fuel prices fall. This paper synthesises the results of 15 village studies to understand the impact of the energy squeeze and explores the desperate responses smallholders are forging to cope with or absorb the energy shock, and somehow stay in irrigated agriculture.

Is India Ripe for Integrated Water Resources Management?

Water scarcity has emerged, especially during the past decade, as an important theme in discussions on India's future. Global discourse suggests that India, and other developing countries in Asia and Africa, can respond to water scarcity - and the resultant water poverty facing their people - by embracing integrated water resources management, a package of best practices for improved management of water resources with strong emphasis on direct demand-side management. This paper addresses five questions about the IWRM paradigm with respect to India: (1) Is water poverty of countries caused by their water scarcity? (2) Would embracing IWRM help alleviate India's water poverty? (3) Is implementing IWRM feasible in India in today's context? (4) Has implementing IWRM helped counter water scarcity and poverty in other countries with a development context comparable to Indiaâ??s? And, finally, (5) What should be the priorities and roadmap for improving the working of the water sector in India? The paper reviews recent evidence from around the world to analyse these questions and concludes with a discussion of implications for water sector reform discussions in India.

Rejuvenating Irrigation Tanks through Local Institutions

Recent attempts to modernise irrigation tanks with a focus on physical rehabilitation, but little institutional development to maintain and manage them, have resulted in a vicious cycle. With the lack of maintenance and upkeep, rehabilitated tanks soon fall into disrepair, necessitating a new round of externally-induced rehabilitation. Yet, there are many tanks under traditional local management operating at a high level of performance equilibrium. A study of 41 tanks from 22 districts of eight Indian states was taken up under the IWMI-Tata Programme to identify the characteristics of high performing local-managed tank institutions. The lessons learnt from the study can form the basis for an effective institutional protocol that can enhance the effectiveness of tank rehabilitation and 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.

Institutional Vacuum in Sardar Sarovar Project

Few large irrigation projects in India have been as elaborately planned as the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), incorporating as it did the lessons of decades of irrigation project design and management. The project was to blaze a new trail in farmer-participatory irrigation project design and management with water user associations building their own distribution systems. However, as it unfolds, the institutional reality of the project is vastly different from its plans. If SSP is to chart a different course from scores of earlier large irrigation projects, it must invent and put into place new rules of the irrigation management game.


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