Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand on Friday said the irrigated area out of net cropped area of 140 million hectares has increased to 55 per cent from 47 per cent in the last six years. As a result, the production of rabi crops has increased. He said increased demand from the people to eat seasonal vegetables through out the year has increased the demand for water to grow those crops.

“The land area with India is less than 3 per cent of the total area in the world and it is constant. But why we never complain about the shortfall in area and raise concern about shortage of water? This despite the fact that water availability is proportionately more than land,” Chand said at an event on water consumption, organised by agrochemical manufacturer Dhanuka Agritech.

He said the demand for water and food has been increasing for which rising population is one of the factors. Population is set to reach 165 crore by 2047 from current 140 crore.

Stressing that water use for agriculture is one area which need to be focused to reduce water consumption, Chand said 80-90 per cent of water was going to the farm sector. He said more water intensive crops are grown now compared to a decade or two earlier. “For instance paddy area is rising, particularly in Telangana. Besides, consumers now want to eat vegetables through out the year even if it is seasonal” he said, adding when you grow a vegetable in off season, water consumption has to rise.

Chand expressed the concern that the country uses 2-3 times more water to produce one tonne of agriculture crop compared to several developed as well as developing nations. He asked states to promote cultivation according to local environmental and geographical conditions.

Optimising resources

Addressing the event, Agriculture Commissioner P K Singh said: “In collaboration with the Jal Shakti Ministry, we are exploring ways to maximise usage of surface water. For example, if water from a canal is presently irrigating 100 hectare of agricultural land, how can we take it to 150 hectare using various means but the same amount of water.”

He said plans will be unveiled soon to create 50,000 climate-smart villages and if Rs 1 crore is saved by each of them, the country will be able to save Rs 50,000 crore annually.

World Cooperative Economic Forum Executive President Binod Anand spoke about optimising water resources through precision agriculture.

RC Agrawal, Deputy Director-General (Agricultural Education), ICAR, stressed upon the need to educate farmers and youths about right water usage in the agriculture sector. “We are designing a course which will make them aware about water usage in the agriculture sector and offer solutions,” said Agrawal.

Dhanuka Group Chairman RG Agarwal advocated adoption of modern technologies for agricultural purposes. Using modern technologies like drones, sprinkler, drip irrigation and water sensors would help reduce the requirement of water for agriculture purposes significantly, he said.