For A Sustainable Solution to Drought
Think & act beyond immediate drought relief
The government has informed the Supreme Court that a quarter of India’s population is affected by drought. Why the judiciary gets involved in something that clearly is in the domain of the executive is a valid discussion we defer for now. The government also apprised the court of its remedial measures. The urgent always gets precedence over the important. The important thing to do is to plan for optimal utilisation of the water resources India has, and India has just 4% of the world’s water while it has 18% of the world’s population.
India allows most of the bounty of the two monsoons it gets to drain away to the sea. It must build more dams, big, small and tiny, to store a much larger proportion. Vidarbha gets more rain than the drier parts of Gujarat, but has not bothered to carry out water harvesting as Gujarat has, and so suffers. India needs a policy for national, integrated use of water across the country, based on equitable water entitlements of all Indians, overriding upper riparian chauvinism. Such an internal model would help India’s and other nations’ claims against upper riparian chauvinism over the waters of rivers that originate outside the national borders. Canals and pipelines should be planned to make equitable access to water a reality. Water, as well as power that is used to extract water, must shed their subsidy, to prevent overuse. If these subsidies are removed, water-guzzling crops will become non-competitive in water-deficient areas: sugarcane will shift from Maharashtra to Bihar and eastern UP. Archaic flooding of fields must give way to drip irrigation and fertigation. Capital-intensive farming will call for economies of scale and, therefore, for allowing leasing of farmland. For this to be viable, firm titles to land must be guaranteed by the state. Industry must learn to recycle all the water it uses, and strive for zero net use of water.
All this is doable, with sufficient political will and leadership. An informed public discourse will help build the consensus needed to make these bold changes to policy. Stop hyperventillating over IPL.