For A Sus­tain­able So­lu­tion to Drought

Think & act be­yond im­me­di­ate drought re­lief

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

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.

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