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Supply- and demand-side management of water in Gujarat, India: what can we learn?

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Agriculture in Gujarat has grown rapidly over the last decade, driven at least partly by diversification to high value crops and dairying. High value agriculture requires better water control and offers higher returns for irrigation. Farmers, farm communities and the state government in Gujarat have responded to this requirement by implementing large-scale water supply and demand management projects like interlinking of rivers, the world's largest popular recharge movement, electricity distribution reforms to limit use of subsidized energy for groundwater irrigation and rapid expansion of areas under micro-irrigation. Some of these programmes have already been declared successful and are being scaled up in Gujarat (like the Saurashtra recharge movement) and emulated elsewhere (like the Jyotirgram Yojana) without much critical scrutiny. Other programmes like the initiative to spread micro-irrigation have not received the attention they deserve from the research community in spite of their apparent success. This paper subjects the biggest on-going supply- and demand-side initiatives for water management in Gujarat to critical scrutiny in light of the recent data and tries to draw lessons for the state and other parts of India facing sustainable water management challenges.

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