Groundwater management in Andhra Pradesh - Time to address real issues – A report by Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy

This report by Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy attempts to address issues related to groundwater management in Andhra Pradesh.

With 49 per cent of the total irrigation from groundwater, the state of Andhra Pradesh accounts for 5.3 per cent of the net groundwater irrigated area in the country. While the state remains as one of the largest exporters of rice, with paddy accounting for nearly 70 per cent of the state’s total irrigated area, groundwater depletion poses serious challenges to not only the agricultural production and rural livelihoods, but also to the nation’s food security.

The paper shows that the assessment of groundwater over-exploitation based on simplistic considerations of aggregate abstraction and recharge provide highly misleading outcomes. The gravity of the problems can be gauged from the extent of well failures, sharp decline in average area irrigated by wells, and increase in energy consumption for irrigation. The adverse affects of groundwater intensive use on tank irrigation also needs due attention.

Further, the paper argues that ideas to improve groundwater management in the state such as promotion of drip systems, replacement of paddy by dry land crops, rainwater harvesting, community management of groundwater, and rationing of power supply in the farm sector are shallow, not based on any scientific consideration of the key physical, socio-economic and institutional parameters that determine the success or effectiveness of these interventions.

There is scant appreciation of the way irrigated paddy influences groundwater balance. The role of drip irrigation in changing agricultural water demand is often over-stated, without proper consideration to the conditions under which it becomes the “best -bet technology”. The debate on the scope of rainwater harvesting and artificial recharge often ignores the fact that the regions facing groundwater depletion do not have surplus water.

Pricing of electricity in the farm sector appears to be the only option the state is left with to tackle the multiple problems of wasteful expenditure on well drilling, and inefficient energy and water use. The report concludes that in the long run, establishing water rights in groundwater might be a viable option, if the opportunity cost of not having them is considered.

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