As a developing country with the second largest population in the world, India faces many challenges related to using its water resources to help ensure the food security of its population in the coming decades. Deteriorating surface water infrastructure combined with the overexploitation of groundwater resources in the rice-wheat belt of the north and in peninsular India mean that Indian agriculture is potentially vulnerable to natural and climate change-related disruptions to water supplies.
While a number of researchers here at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) have explored these problems from different angles and disciplines, there is still a great need for the development of interdisciplinary research tools that may help inform policy decisions on water use and food production in India. Because of the size of the Indian population, trends in irrigated farm productivity are important to international food markets and therefore are of relevance to policy-makers that deal with agriculture in the developed world. With this in mind, the USDA Economic Research Service is working with IWMI on developing a set of hydro-economic tools that would allow us to better understand the impact of water on India's agricultural production and international markets. Our research looks at the effects of water scarcity and variability on crop supply, demand, and trade in the coming decades. Accounting for the inter-dependence of surface and groundwater resources, we model projected land use and production levels that may occur under a ''business-as-usual'' approach to the existing water challenges as well as investigate the potential effects of policy changes. Due to the reliance of groundwater pumping on energy use, policies related to electricity pricing and availability are of particular interest. Whereas the lack of rural electrification is a constraint to increased irrigation in the water-abundant Eastern Ganges basin, highly subsidized or free electricity has contributed greatly to depleted aquifers elsewhere. For that reason, we consider the potential for energy policy to improve the sustainability of irrigated agriculture in different regions and how they might together affect national production levels.
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