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Drip Irrigation Requires More Support

Context

  • Two significant issues that Indian farmers encounter in the summer are a lack of electricity for pump sets and a lack of water for irrigation.
  • Due to frequent load-shedding, farmers who use groundwater to grow high-value crops like bananas, sugarcane, cotton, paddy, etc. are unable to adequately hydrate their crops.
  • Therefore, even during times of water scarcity and load-shedding, crop cultivation can be done profitably by using drip irrigation.

Relevance: GS-2: Government Policies, Governance and related issues.

GS-3: Different Types of Irrigation and Irrigation Systems; Drip Irrigation.

Mains Question

What role does drip irrigation play in Indian agriculture? Also, make some recommendations for ways to promote the use of drip irrigation. (250 Words).


Highlights:

  • Since the Green Revolution was introduced in 1965–1966, there have been significant changes in farming practises, making assured irrigation facilities essential for crop cultivation.
    • Long-used tank and canal irrigation has lost some of its significance, while groundwater irrigation has grown significantly over time.
  • According to a World Bank report, India uses the most groundwater globally.
    • With nearly 18% of the world’s population, India takes up 2.4% of the planet’s land area and uses 4% of its water supplies.
  • The majority of crops grown during the rabi and summer seasons depend on groundwater; there is no federal law that regulates the use of groundwater, and different States have their own laws on regulating its extraction that are only applied ostensibly.
  • However, due to the summertime electricity shortage, the amount of power supplied to the agricultural sector is significantly reduced in various States, with crops that require a lot of water suffering the most.

Drip irrigation: What is it?

The best method for delivering nutrients and water to crops is drip irrigation.Each plant receives the precise amount of water and nutrients it requires at the precise time for optimum growth by being delivered directly to the root zone of the plant.

Why does drip irrigation appeal to farmers?

  • Drip irrigation gives farmers an easy and efficient way to run their farms in addition to providing a higher return on investment than other irrigation techniques.
  • More yields of consistently high quality
  • Huge water savings because there is no evaporation, runoff, or waste. Nearly 100% of the land is used because drip irrigation applies evenly to all topographies and soil types.
  • Less reliance on weather, greater stability, and lower risks;
  • Efficient use of fertiliser and crop protection, with no leaching
  • Although drip irrigation differs from the traditional flood irrigation technique, it can be used to grow a variety of crops profitably while using less water and electricity.
    • The flood method takes longer to irrigate each hectare of land because a lot of water is lost during transportation, distribution, and evaporation.
  • On the other hand, drip irrigation uses a system of pipes and emitters to deliver water directly to the crop’s root zone, completely eliminating water loss.
    • The drip method uses up to 70% less water to irrigate various crops than the flood method does.
    • For instance, drip irrigation only requires one hour per turn for an acre of sugarcane or banana crops.
  • However, using the flood method to irrigate the same crops takes 15 to 30 hours, increasing both water and power consumption.
  • Using drip irrigation, farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Madras, and Maharashtra were able to increase crop yields by 42 to 53 percent while reducing irrigation costs by 20 to 50 percent and fertiliser use by 7 to 43 percent, according to a field study conducted by the Agriculture Ministry in Maharashtra, an important drip-irrigated State.Increasing the area under drip irrigation can significantly reduce water and electricity costs, according to the report of the Task Force on Micro-Irrigation, which was established by the Central Government in 2004.

What has changed most with groundwater irrigation?

  • Groundwater irrigation has undergone a significant change as a result of the widespread expansion of rural electrification.
  • There were only 16 lakh electric pump sets in 1970–1971; by 2018–19, there were 207 lakh, an almost 13-fold increase.
  • This has significantly altered India’s irrigation map.
  • For example, the proportion of groundwater in the total irrigated area has increased exponentially, rising from 34% in 1970–1971 to 64% in 2019–20.
  • Therefore, during the same time period, the sector of agriculture’s electricity consumption increased 48 times.

Need of the Hour:

  • In light of the numerous advantages, the Centre has been promoting drip irrigation since 1990–1991 by offering farmers who adopt it a 50–100% capital cost subsidy.
    • The Pradhan Mantri Sinchayee Yojana, which was launched in 2015 with a higher allocation of funds to increase the area under drip irrigation, was designed to achieve the goal of “more crop per drop.” As a result, the area under drip irrigation has increased from just 70,589 hectares in 1991–1992 to 63.21 lakh hectares in 2020–21.
  • A number of States, including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, have announced various programmes with sizable subsidies to encourage farmers to use this irrigation system.
    • Additional efforts are required to achieve a discernible growth in the drip irrigation area.
  • According to the Task Force, 270 lakh hectares of arable land are suitable for drip irrigation.
  • However, only 6% of all irrigated land in India was drip-irrigated in 2020–21.
  • There is no denying that drip irrigation, which uses less water and electricity, can be a profitable farming method.
    • As a result, the government and its agencies need to act quickly to provide drip irrigation to the majority of farmers.
  • In addition to horticultural crops, drip irrigation can be used to grow more than 80 different crops, such as cotton, groundnuts, sugarcane, bananas, and tur.
  • Therefore, it is crucial to continuously raise awareness among farmers of the advantages of drip irrigation.
  • According to data from the Central Groundwater Board, overexploitation has caused the number of blocks at risk for groundwater to rise from 1,645 in 2004 to 2,538 in 2020.
    • The flooding method is primarily to blame for the cultivation of water-intensive crops like sugarcane, bananas, wheat, and vegetables.
    • As a result, drip irrigation should be mandated for all water-intensive crops in areas with high groundwater exploitation.
  • With the aid of sugarcane mills, steps should be taken to gradually bring sugarcane cultivation completely under drip.
  • Farmers who agree to use drip irrigation only should be given immediate access to electricity for pumpsets and interest-free bank loans from the government.
  • There are reports that a rapidly changing climate may alter rainfall patterns and worsen the availability of freshwater.
    • In the context of climate change, efforts must be made to find solutions that are crucial for sustainable development as uncertainties in relation to groundwater resources will grow.

Context

The sooner a larger area is covered by drip irrigation, the sooner the objective of “more output per drop of water” can be accomplished.


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