Groundwater crisis in India

Ever since the Green Revolution, farmers' dependence on intensive inputs like water and fertilizers has resulted in the serious depletion of the underground water table, in many states across the country. 

Farming is becoming increasingly unsustainable in these regions, as the map shows, and there is a heavy need to switch to more sustainable alternatives. However, the reverse has happened. Policymakers have only incentivized more groundwater usage through credit and subsidies for groundwater extraction equipment as well as low electricity tariffs that lead to excessive water usage. This is catastrophic - good for short-term profit, but soon the marginal output of farms will start decreasing and the environment would be beyond recovery. 

The choice of crops is also important - being water-abundant, the east is more suited to growing water-intensive crops like sugarcane and paddy. But differences in electricity supply have ensured that such crops have not found a place in their natural habitat. On the other hand, electricity subsidies and tariffs in the south and west India, regions with low water tables, encouraged sugarcane and paddy cultivation, draining these regions of their already low groundwater.

The need of the hour is to switch to surface water irrigation and other sustainable alternatives to groundwater depletion before it's too late, and to prioritize crop growing according to what is most sustainable. The government must realize that short-term revenue cannot be the altar at which nature is sacrificed, and that it is for the benefit of all parties involved that unsustainable farming practices are discouraged.


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