India's groundwater irrigation boom: can it be sustained?

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Development of groundwater irrigation (GWI) has been very impressive in India, especially after the introduction of the green revolution. The area under GWI accounts for 62% of the net irrigated area today. Though GWI provides added benefits to farmers, compared to other sources of irrigation, the continuous exploitation of groundwater of late has resulted in a drastic drop in the water table, and led to salinization and quality deterioration in different parts of the country. Since groundwater contributes overwhelmingly to agricultural growth, the unrestrained exploitation of groundwater could hamper the future growth of agriculture. GWI is controlled by many factors, which are dynamic and bound to change along with the agricultural development. Therefore, one needs to understand the factors determining groundwater development in different regions over time to understand the dynamics of groundwater use. Though many studies are available on different aspects of GWI in India, not many studies have looked at the sustainable aspects of GWI, considering the major States of India together. An attempt is made in this paper to study the development as well as the factors determining GWI over time, using state-wide data to suggest appropriate interventions to sustain the use of groundwater.

Keywords: Groundwater exploitation, Indian agriculture, Irrigated area, Sustainability

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