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States should adopt suitable cropping patterns to conserve water, says Prabhu

Mumbai, May 22 (PTI) Amid states like Punjab and Haryana facing acute groundwater shortage, former water resources minister Suresh Prabhu on Friday said state governments need to adopt scientifically-designed cropping patterns to ensure optimum utilisation of water.

Since Punjab and Haryana are facing severe water crisis due to over-exploitation of groundwater for wheat and rice production, the governments of both these states are working towards shifting to other crops which require less water.

'In India, over the 86-87 per cent water goes into agriculture. Therefore, if water is going to be used in so much quantity, then it is necessary to think about management of this water,' Prabhu said during an online CII water summit.

He noted that earlier states were using irrigation water for agriculture, but now some of them are also exploiting groundwater, leading to its depletion due to over-use.

'States like Punjab and Haryana have been drawing water from below the surface and using it for crop like paddy which is extremely water intensive.  'Unfortunately, we have entered a situation where we are using water by whatever means for agriculture. It is true that water is important for agriculture, but if we don't have water, what will we do?' Prabhu said.

He further said that planning of water management from demand side will require proper monitoring of agriculture.

'There is a need to have a scientifically designed cropping pattern that will ensure that every drop of water is used to produce more crop. We should take up crops where it makes more sense to cultivate it, rather than exploiting the resources,' he said.  He further said a national cropping pattern can also be developed.

'Since water is volatile, we should have an integrated approach to ensure the groundwater levels are recharged. Apart from conserving and harvesting water, we need to focus on recycling and reusing of sewage water. As civilisations form on the banks of the rivers, we cannot let these natural resources to dry up,' Prabhu added. PTI PSK ABM ABM