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House panel suggests prepaid cards for power to save groundwater

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation

 

Source: IE

Context: In order to prevent excessive exploitation of groundwater (GW), a Parliamentary Standing Committee report recommends discouraging the use of electric pumps by introducing measures such as pre-paid cards, etc.

 

Highlights of the report – “Groundwater: A Valuable but Diminishing Resource”:

  • Over-extraction of GW for meeting irrigation needs is prevalent in Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan, meeting 97%, 90%, and 86% of their irrigation needs from GW extraction.
  • Others such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and UP are also significant users of GW for irrigation.

 

The main reason for such overexploitation of GW:

  • Wide cultivation of water guzzler paddy and sugarcane crops which are heavily incentivised by way of highly subsidised pricing of water, etc.
  • For example, states like Punjab, Haryana, Telangana and Tamil Nadu offer completely free power, while others collect token charges.

 

Challenges: The central government’s inability to persuade states to reduce/stop subsidies for the power given in agriculture as –

  • Water being a State subject
  • Electricity is a concurrent subject, and
  • State Electricity Regulatory Commissions determine the electricity tariff for retail supply to end consumers under the extant provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003.

 

Recommendations:

  • Devising integrated measures for adoption in agriculture.
  • Introduction of pre-paid cards for power supply, restricting it for a few hours in the day, etc.
  • A need for a shift in focus from ‘land productivity’ to ‘water productivity’ (production per cubic meter of water).
  • The Ministry of Jal Shakti to work out a policy to ensure judicious water use not only to reduce dependence on GW but to reduce its footprint in agriculture by engaging the Agriculture Ministry.
  • The Jal Shakti Ministry should urge both the Power Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry along with state governments to take measures on the suggested lines.

 

Steps taken by the Indian government:

  • Atal Bhujal Yojana is a groundwater management scheme launched in 2019.
  • Jal Shakti Abhiyan (JSA) (2019): It was launched in 256 water-stressed districts in the country to improve water availability including groundwater conditions in these areas.
  • Aquifer Mapping and Management Programme, etc.

 

Best practice:

  • The Punjab govt. introduced a scheme to refund money to the farmers if they consume less electricity.
  • Deendayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana of the Ministry of Power has a separate component of agriculture and non-agriculture feeders, facilitating judicious rostering of supply to agriculture & non-agriculture consumers in rural areas.

 

Insta Links:

UN Groundwater Summit 2022 to help raise awareness on aquifer protection, sustainable use