Tap drip irrigation to save water -A Narayanamoorthy
-The Hindu Business Line
This method is more productive and cost effective in agriculture, which accounts for 80% of the water consumed
Water scarcity has now reached a new level in India. While severe drinking water scarcity is noticed commonly everywhere, farmers are facing a lot of difficulties in cultivating crops with reduced water availability in different regions. What is worrying is that water scarcity is expected to aggravate further in the near future.
Projections made by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) indicate that one-third of the world population would face absolute water scarcity by the year 2025. NITI Aayog’s report (2018) on ‘composite water management index’ also underlined the depressing state of water stress.
Though India has the largest irrigated area in the world, about 85 per cent of total irrigation potential (139.90 million hectares) has already been created, leaving limited potential for future use. An estimate of the Ministry of Water Resources (2008) shows the total demand for water will overshoot the supply by 2050. With this alarming scenario, how are we going to solve the ever increasing water scarcity problem?
There’s much scope for easing water scarcity in agriculture. The agricultural sector (irrigation) currently consumes about 80 per cent of water in India, thanks to the inefficient conventional flood method of irrigation (FMI). Data on water use efficiency indicates that India uses 2-3 times more water than major agricultural countries like China, Brazil and the US to produce one unit of food crop.
Benefits of drip irrigation
Drip method of irrigation (DMI) has been found to increase water-use efficiency by saving a substantial amount of water. What is DMI? Unlike FMI, the drip method supplies water directly to the root zone of a crop through a network of pipes and emitters. Since it supplies water directly to the crop, rather than the land around, water losses occurring through evaporation and distribution are significantly reduced. The on-farm efficiency of the drip irrigation system is estimated to be over 90 per cent; it is only 35-40 per cent for FMI.
DMI was introduced in India during the mid-1980s primarily to save water. But it generates a lot of other benefits as well. That there is water saving of 30-70 per cent for different crops under DMI when compared to FMI has been well established. While reducing the cost of cultivation substantially, especially in irrigation, weeding and inter-culture, DMI also helps increase the productivity of different crops by 30-90 per cent.
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