Private investment in groundwater irrigation: Do the public institutions matter? - The case of West Bengal

This paper by Centre for Studies in Social Sciences and Jadavpur University, aims at explaining the factors that determine private investment in groundwater irrigation in West Bengal. It also addresses the issues pertaining to institutional arrangements, particularly provision of facilities by the government. The study, largely empirical in nature, is based on data collected from surveys conducted in close to one thousand moujas (villages) spread across the major agro-climatic zones in West Bengal.

This paper by Centre for Studies in Social Sciences and Jadavpur University, aims at explaining the factors that determine private investment in groundwater irrigation in West Bengal. It also addresses the issues pertaining to institutional arrangements, particularly provision of facilities by the government. The study, largely empirical in nature, is based on data collected from surveys conducted in close to one thousand moujas (villages) spread across the major agro-climatic zones in West Bengal. It begins with a descriptive account of the changes in the agricultural scenario in West Bengal over the last thirty years. The research questions are discussed and the econometric methodology presented.

It relates the variations in the spread of HYV paddy cultivation in the monsoon season and the spread of summer paddy cultivation across West Bengal in terms of variations in irrigation facilities. It also considers the role of rural electrification for the emergence of private investment in groundwater extraction mechanism. An important result of the study impinges on the fact that private groundwater extracting devices coexist with government irrigation facilities in many moujas. In the process the role of public institutions are explained.

The most revealing conclusion of the paper is the extent to which the emergence of the private groundwater irrigation has been instrumental in the agricultural growth of West Bengal. The study reveals that merely providing public infrastructure, such as electrification of agricultural fields, does not ensure the emergence of private investment in groundwater. The emergence of private investment in groundwater irrigations is largely governed by geo-physical conditions, such as the presence of hard rock close to the surface and other factors such as the presence or absence of reliable public provision for irrigation. Unless agro-climatic conditions are sufficiently favorable or the input and output prices are “right”, it may not be worthwhile for farmers to invest in the groundwater extraction equipment. 

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