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Issue 23
March , 2010
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India’s food security goals in danger

Source: Source: The Tribune, New Delhi, Date: March , 2010

Two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the Parliament of “no-panic” on the food front, an alarming new report by the World Bank has shown that an increasing number of aquifers in India are reaching unsustainable levels of exploitation, endangering long-term food security goals. If current trends continue, in 20 years about 60 per cent of all aquifers in the country will be in a critical condition, putting at risk over a quarter of the harvest, concludes the report “Deep Wells and Prudence: Towards Pragmatic Action for Addressing Groundwater Overexploitation in India”, initiated to identify practical strategies for managing groundwater use in India. The report rings alarm bells for policy makers, warning them against status quo. “If nothing changes, groundwater depletion could risk future agricultural sustainability, livelihoods and economic growth in India,” it says, considering groundwater acts as a buffer against the variability of monsoon rains. A rainfall deficit in 1963-66 decreased India’s food production by 20 per cent but a similar drought in 1987-88 had very small impact on food production due to widespread prevalence of groundwater, which is now declining. India is the largest groundwater user in the world, exploiting 230 cubic kilometres of groundwater every year - over a quarter of the global total. This inaction has arisen mainly because the solutions often proposed for groundwater management are very controversial, including “command-and-control” regulation of wells and curbing the supply of free or cheap power for groundwater irrigation. “The report provides a menu of practical interventions which can be implemented in the current environment,” Roberto Zagha, WB India Director told, Analysing the factors behind overexploitation, the report says groundwater allows the users more control over quantity and timing of supply, and, therefore, its use is linked with higher productivity.


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