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Mitigating the Water, Energy and Food Crisis: A Humane Solution

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Mitigating the Water, Energy and Food Crisis: A Humane Solution
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  Mitigating the Water, Energy and FoodCrisis: A Humane Solution S. Subramanian and G. Bhalachandran 1 Introduction Agricultural sector’s contribution to  inclusive growth  of Indian economy is uniqueand encompassing. It is the largest unregulated private sector of India, employingaround 58 % Ministry of Agriculture, Annual Report 2010–2011, GOI of theworkforce and registered its share of about 14.5 %, according to the EconomicSurvey (2011–2012), of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at constant 2004/2005 prices. It is the primary source of livelihood in rural areas, whichaccount for 72 % of India’s population (Bhatia 2007). India’s share in the world’stotal land is just 2.3 %; but, its population share is about 17.5 % in the worldpopulation. This poses a major challenge for Indian Agriculture on food security.Though, the food-grains’ production in India over the years has increased from50.83 million tons (Mt) in 1950/1951 to 250.42 Mt in 2011–2012 (EconomicSurvey 2011–2012), it is estimated that, in order to sustain and support the pro-  jected population of 1.363 billion by 2025, agricultural production in India has toincrease by 85 % and its productivity by 100 % from the present levels through theprocess of intensification in agricultural practices (TEDDY 2010). But, this hasplanted the seeds of anxiety in the minds of the people due to reduced public sectorinvestments (Nelson et al. 2010). S. Subramanian ( & )Institute for Social and Economic Change, Dr. V. K. R. V. Rao Road, Nagarabhavi,Bangalore 560072, Indiae-mail: prashantsubbu@gmail.comG. BhalachandranSri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Prasanthinilayam, Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh515134, IndiaS. Nautiyal et al. (eds.),  Knowledge Systems of Societies for Adaptation and Mitigationof Impacts of Climate Change , Environmental Science and Engineering,DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-36143-2_30,    Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013 511  2 Agriculture and Water Agricultural inputs play a significant role in determining the yield levels as well asthe level of production in the long run.  Irrigation  is one of the most importantinputs for enhancing the productivity and it is required at different critical stages of plant growth of various crops. Today, irrigation in India consumes almost morethan 80–85 % of the fresh water resource in the country (Bhatia 2007; Mukheerji2008). This fact is quite evident with the increasing requirement of water forirrigation for the current and future levels (Table 1).India’s irrigated area has expanded at a steady rate during the last few decades.The total irrigation potential in the country has increased from 81.1 million ha in1991–1992 to 108.2 million hectares in March 2010 (Economic Survey 2011). Themain sources of irrigation for the thirsty Indian agriculture are rainfall, canal ortank irrigation, and the well or underground water resources.  Rainfall  influencescrop production and productivity in a big way in India, with agriculture still beinglargely  rain -  fed   which is highly unpredictable (Briscoe and Malik  2007). The  rain -  fed   agro-ecologies cover about 60 % of the net sown area of 140.3 million hectareand are widely distributed in the country (MoA 2011). The  canal - irrigated   area isexclusively dominated by government canals; whereas, the share of private canalsin  canal - irrigated   area has continuously declined from 13.3 % in 1950/1951 to amere 1.5 % in 2006/2007 (TEDDY 2010). Ground water   in India has taken the front seat pushing all the other playersbehind. The yields in area irrigated by ground water are often substantially higherthan yields in areas irrigated from surface water sources, mainly due to its ease of control, reliability, flexibility and its support to act as a buffer against drought(Bhatia 2007; Iyer 2009). At present, approximately 231 BMC of groundwater is extracted annually in India (GOI 2009–2010), which is said to be the highestvolume of annual ground water extraction in absolute terms in the world (Scott andShah 2004; Shah 2005). The intensive installation of tube wells since 1970s has resulted in wells emerging as the dominating source of irrigation in Indian agri-culture (Economic Survey 2011). During 2006/2007, canals (25 %), wells (59 %),tanks (3 %), and others (12 %) accounted for the total net irrigated. At a growthrate of 5.5 % a year, it is estimated that roughly 36 % of the blocks in the country Table 1  Annual current and expected requirement of water in India (in BCM: Billion CubicMeters)Different uses of water 1990 2000 2010 2025 2050Domestic 32 42 56 73 102Irrigation 437 541 688 910 1072Industry – 8 12 23 63Energy – 2 5 12 130Others 33 41 52 72 80Total 502 634 813 1093 1447 Source  TEDDY (2005) and (2010) 512 S. Subramanian and G. Bhalachandran  would be either  dark   or  critical  in terms of groundwater overuse by 2017–2018(Moench 2002; Dubash 2007). Although ground water development has brought considerable economic growth and diversification in rural areas, but the conse-quences of negative groundwater draft have mostly been viewed as an  ecologicaldisaster  . 3 Water–Energy Nexus Water sustains human life and  energy  develops it (Gupta 2002) and these two canno longer be viewed as mutually exclusive and their inter-linkages and dynamicshave to be carefully observed. Since they are complementary by nature, scarcity of either of the two can be met with by the surplus of the other (Gupta 2002). Theincreasing dependence of Indian agriculture on commercial energy is evident fromthe fact that the total energy use in the production of principal crops in India hasincreased 4.5 times between 1970 and 2005 to support the increase in productivityfrom 837 to 1583 kg/ha (NAAS 2008). However, the real complexity in the water–electricity link rests not in the proportion of electricity that is used by agriculture,but in the way in which the use of electricity by farmers has evolved overtime(Dubash 2007). Electricity provision for agriculture has its roots in the  Green Revolution  strategy of agricultural intensification. Perhaps, this strategy was suc-cessful, since the  Green Revolution  had lots of technological enhancements withbetter access to water and electricity. Of course, the country in the recent times hasnot witnessed any big technological breakthrough in agriculture since then (Eco-nomic Survey 2011).Water-energy interactions in India have significant implications for growth,poverty reduction and environment. The agriculture sector is heavily dependent onfossil fuels; therefore, it is to be anticipated to have a direct and strong impact onenergy prices on agricultural production cost and food prices. Though energyavailability is an important factor for agricultural growth, more importantly, theefficient and reliable energy supply is critical. The average farm power availabilityin India has increased from 0.25 kilowatts (kW)/ha in 1951 to 1.502 kW/ha in2005/2006 (MoA 2011). Irrigation water pumping is the second most importantdirect commercial energy end-use in Indian agriculture after land preparation(TEDDY 2002; cited in Batra and Mahajan 2009). There were, reportedly, morethan 15 million electric and 6 million diesel irrigation pump sets in operation in thesector in 2003 (Batra and Mahajan 2009). Currently, the  irrigation efficiency  isonly 20–50 % (Mukherjee 2008). In this process, not only the quality of waterresources is degraded but, also, valuable habitats are destroyed. Iyer (2009) opinesthat the short term gains here can dramatic; but, the long term gains seem bleak,where not much water will be available to meet the projected growth.According to (Shah 2009), the rise and fall of local groundwater economiesfollow a  four  - stage  progression (Fig. 1 ) . It underpins the typical progression of asocio–ecology from a stage where unutilized groundwater resource potential Mitigating the Water, Energy and Food Crisis 513  becomes the instrument of unleashing an agrarian boom to a position in whichexploiting of groundwater becomes a threat. The effect of the  Green Revolution and mechanized tube well technology has nudged many regions of India fromstage 2–4. In the absence of significant public investment in surface water-basedirrigation infrastructure during the last 30–40 years, the need for reliable watersupplies has translated into extensive and essentially unregulated groundwaterpumping by individuals across the country (Narula and Lall 2010). Another reasoncited in literature is that the rural electrification and power subsidies in the farmsector have accelerated groundwater utilization exponentially (Moench 1995; Shah1993; Palmer Jones 1995) and heavy loss to the SEBs (Moench 1994). Figure 2 presents the continuous deteriorating status of the availability of water per capitain India with a projection up until 2041. 4 Vicious Circle in Indian Agriculture Most of the inefficiencies, misuse and environmental damage relating to water andirrigation in India have their roots in the  mispricing  of water and electricity(Padmanaban and Totino 2001; Vaidyanathan 2003; Morris 2007). The pricing strategies adopted in the Indian system of   electricity pricing for irrigation  can beclassified under  three  heads viz., (1)  Free electricity  to farmers (Punjab, AndhraPradesh, and Tamil Nadu); (2)  Flat rates  (a flat rate regardless of actual power use)and (3)  Metered tariff   (levied on per unit cost of power consumed). By the mid-1970s and 1980s, many state governments’ and State Electricity Boards (SEBs)had shifted away from  metering  of electricity sales to agricultural consumers andintroduced giving power at  flats rates  in the beginning and eventually ended with  free power  , primarily to seize a powerful  vote - bank   (Shah 1993; Dubash Navrozand Rajan 2000), sprouting a notional rift between end-users and the precious Fig. 1  Rise and fall of groundwater socio–ecologies  Source  Shah (2009)514 S. Subramanian and G. Bhalachandran  resource. Other reason behind this ploy was to avoid the high transaction cost andlogistical difficulty in metering and collecting electricity charges (Shah 1993;Bhatia 2007; Mukherjee 2008). Moreover, in the  flat rate  system, the marginal costof pumping water is zero and masks the true cost of power to the farmer andprovides incentive to pump more for his own use or for the sale to other farmers(Padmanaban and Totino 2001; Bhatia 2007) and, thus, creating avenues for  Water  Markets . With long usage of low-priced or zero-priced free electricity, farmers getused to thinking of water as a  free public good   eventually and even the admin-istrators and regulators have recorded the idea of   subsidy  in irrigation water-charges a must (Morris 2002).Cropping patterns and farming practices also do not necessarily encourage the judicious use of water. Conservative estimates indicate that the same irrigationwater used today can irrigate double the current area with optimized irrigation andfarming practices (Varughese 2007). Despite the fact that this ‘era of the individualcoping strategies’ has been remarkably successful, the decline in the quality of public irrigation and water supply services has produced social unrest and politicalpressure.Indian electricity distribution system is characterized by poor design andinstallation with long lengths and undersized lines, resulting in high  transmissionand distribution  (T&D) losses and large voltage drops. The effect of this is realizedin the uncertain and unreliable supply of electricity to the farmers. Frequent motorburnouts and power cuts leave the farmer in flux. Farmers bear the brunt of additional costs of reinstallation and invariably switch over to inefficient, thickerarmature-coil-windings to withstand burnouts and voltage drops (Padmanaban andTotino 2001). Unbranded and locally manufactured pump-sets with impropermaintenance increase the energy inefficiency and further deteriorate the electricityquality (Tongia 2007). Thus, the frequent power cuts have led to an additionalinvestment on the standby generators leading to the duplication of investments.The  power sequencing policy  of the State Electricity Boards (SEBs), regulatingsupply of power on a rotational basis in various blocks (supply restricted to 4–8 h Fig. 2  Declining availability of water per capital ( Source  Narula and Lall 2010)Mitigating the Water, Energy and Food Crisis 515
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