India’s per capita water availability is estimated to further decline to 1,465 cubic meter by 2025, a top official of agri-research body ICAR said on Thursday as he stressed on the need to use technology and crop diversification to reduce water consumption.

ICAR also announced that it is working on a mechanism to suggest crop planning for India under which farmers would be recommended which crop is to be grown in how much area.

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Briefing the media on water management in agri sector, Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) Director General T Mohapatra pointed out that the per capita annual water availability has declined to 1,508 cubic meter in 2014 from 5,177 cubic meter in 1951.

“The per capita availability of water is estimated to decline further to 1,465 cubic meter by 2025 and 1,235 cubic meter by 2050. If it declines further to around 1,000-1,100 cubic meter, then India could be declared as water-stressed country,” he warned.

In such a scenario, Mohapatra feared that there could be a fight between different states over water and even within states.

Of the total 140 million hectare of net sown area, only 48.8 per cent is under irrigation and rest is rainfed, he added. Of the net irrigated area of 68.38 million hectare, about 60 per cent is irrigated through groundwater.

“There is a need to reduce the consumption of water in the agriculture sector. We can produce more even in less water. Prime Minister has given a call for per drop more crop,” Mohapatra said.

He said a group of secretaries had asked ICAR to work on crop planning for the entire country.

This will help in recommending which crop is to be grown in how much area in a district, Mohapatra said, adding that it will take one year to come out with such crop planning.

ICAR’s two bodies -- National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research and Indian Institute of Farming Systems Research at Modipuram, Meerut -- are working on this crop planning mechanism, he added.

The crop planning would be based on local climatic conditions, water availability and overall demand-supply situation and could help the government to plan its incentives in such ways that farmers will adopt those recommended crops, the DG said.

Terming likely water shortage a serious issue, Mohapatra said the ICAR has launched a campaign to educate farmers about right water usage in their fields from July 1 till October 15. He said already 10 lakh farmers have been reached through its Krishi Vigyan Kendras and plan is to reach another 5 lakh farmers.

He said there is a need to double the area under micro-irrigation from the current level of 9 million hectares. “For this to achieve, farmers will have to come forward”.

Mohapatra said the flood irrigation results in wastage of water and energy as well as reduce the efficiency of fertilisers.

ICAR’s DG also stressed on the need for scheduling of irrigation process and said technologies like moisture sensor and other software are available to achieve this.

He said the technologies are not costly and their applications would help in the reduction of input cost.

Mohapatra also spoke about constructive use of water especially groundwater, rainwater harvesting and use of waste water in irrigation.

Emphasising on crop diversification, he said: “There is a need for change in crops. If there is less water, those crops should be cultivated that take less water” and advocated the cultivation of oilseeds and coarse cereals and pulses that take less water.

ICAR’s DG said production of wheat and rice is important for the country’s food security, but this could be achieved by raising yield and not area.

Asked about metering of water, Mohapatra said this would act as a deterrent and reduce consumption but added that this is for the government to decide.