Can India withstand a water crisis?

In this episode of the State of the Economy Podcast, Subramani Ra Mancombu speaks to Rathish Balakrishnan, Co-founder of Sattva Consulting on the issue of water scarcity in Indian agriculture, highlighted in the report “Transforming Crop Cultivation: Advancing Water Efficiency in Indian Agriculture.”

Co-released by the DCM Shriram Foundation and Sattva Knowledge Institute, this report calls for action to tackle the critical water crisis affecting the nation’s farming sector.

The report highlights that agriculture consumes a whopping 90% of India’s water resources, with irrigation alone using up 84% of available water.

Balakrishnan emphasises the seriousness of the situation, noting that despite being home to 17% of the world’s population, India has only 4% of the world’s water reserves. With about 73% of the country already experiencing some form of water stress, the water crisis poses a significant challenge. He stresses the report’s focus on addressing groundwater depletion, a critical issue worsened by agriculture’s excessive water use.

The report identifies key crops like cotton, sugarcane, and rice as major water consumers. Balakrishnan underscores the need for targeted solutions to reduce the impact of these water-intensive crops while safeguarding farmers’ livelihoods.

One of the report’s main recommendations is to establish an engine for localised agricultural ecosystems. Balakrishnan explains that this engine would offer tailored solutions based on regional contexts, enabling stakeholders to make well-informed decisions.

The report also proposes creating a Water Vulnerability Index to guide decision-making processes, providing vital data for policymakers and businesses.

Balakrishnan also highlights the importance of building a network of stakeholders to drive collective action. By bringing together state governments, industry players, and civil society organisations, this network can facilitate concerted efforts to address the water crisis at both local and national levels.

In terms of practical solutions, Balakrishnan emphasises promoting on-farm conservation techniques. These include measures like drip irrigation and alternate wetting and drying, which can significantly reduce water usage while maintaining agricultural productivity.

Furthermore, Balakrishnan addresses the issue of food waste, noting its significant contribution to water inefficiencies in agriculture. By tackling food waste through improved storage and distribution systems, the report aims to maximize the efficiency of water usage throughout the food supply chain.

Listen in!

Host: Subramani Ra Mancombu

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