M. Kumar DINESH
Consultant and Project Director, North Gujarat Groundwater Initiative, International Water Management Institute, India Project Office, Vallabh Vidhyanagar. Email: d.kumar@ cgiar.org
Managing water for securing food security means needs a multi-pronged approach. At the aggregate level the irrigation water supplies and the demand for irrigation need to be balanced. This offers two challenges: of water supply management and inter-sectoral water allocation. At the next level, greater equity needs to be ensured in accessing and controlling water from aquifers and public systems. At the third level, farmers should maximize production from available land and water resources with least environmental consequences such as land degradation and groundwater depletion, through efficient resource use. The existing water resource development technologies have great bias towards the rich. In water abundant regions such as Bihar and Orissa, the poor still depend on water purchased at prohibitive prices for irrigation. In this paper, the author shows that under the current pricing system for electricity in farm sector, the conventional water saving technologies favours the rich with greater opportunities.
The author argues that emerging technologies such as treadle pumps, can not only change the trajectory of water resource development, but also increase the ability of the poor in water rich regions to invest in irrigation, boost productivity and production and secure food security. Micro irrigation technologies can greatly enhance the ability of the poor to maximise production from limited water supplies they would have access to. Integrated land and water management practices such as organic farming, agronomical practices would be key to enhancing land and water use productivity on a sustainable basis; but small and marginal holders would face severe constraints in adopting them. Subsidies are needed for poor farmers to adopt technologies that would reduce their dependence on biomass, increase biomass use efficiencies, and invest in integrated land and water management techniques to improve land and water use productivity.
Allocation of tradable private property rights in water will lead to overall enhancement in the economic efficiency of water use and higher productivity in agriculture. Enforcement of tradable private property rights will ensure equitable access to water in water scarce regions, for agriculture and also across classes. This is critical from the point of view of local and domestic food security. Where as in water abundant regions, it can also provide the landless farmers with sufficient incentives to invest in development and transfer water to high valued uses elsewhere, and generate income. Volumetric pricing of water from public canals and unit pricing of electricity in the farm sector with carefully designed structures, along with properly enforced water rights, can not only improve the physical efficiencies of water use in agriculture, but also provide the rich and poor farmers with equal opportunities for income earning from farming.