Columbia University’s eye-opening report on north Gujarat

Columbia University’s eye-opening report on north Gujarat
By Japan K Pathak
Ahmedabad, 4 April, 2011

Columbia water center’s latest study in one particular region (180 of North Gujarat covering areas of Mahesana and Gandhinagar districts is eye-opener.

The report is about 600-800 ft deep underground water level in this agriculture oriented area of north Gujarat. Every year, underground level of water goes nine to twenty ft deeper which compels farmers to purchase extra powerful motor and therefore more electricity consumption with less quality and quantity both. Over the years this practice will prove unaffordable. According to research study the farmers themselves believe that underground water will last for next six years only. Out of 182 tubewells studied only 9 were found using drip irrigation!

For those who really are concerned about well being of Gujarat, following PDF link is must visit.

-The study region covers a total geographical area of 180 sq. km. It forms a part of two districts: Mehsana and Gandhinagar, and three talukas (counties), Vijapur, Visnagar (in Mehsana district) and Mansa (in Gandhinagar district).

-Agriculture accounts for around 90% of the total water use followed by domestic and industrial water use. More than 80% of the land area is under cultivation. Of the total area under cultivation,around 65 -70% is irrigated. Net area irrigated in the study region is estimated to be around 10,000 hectares. Almost 55 – 60% of the working population is engaged in agriculture and agro related activities.

-The groundwater situation is now so dire that the future of agriculture in North Gujarat is in jeopardy. Farmers are the first to suffer, as they must continually invest in deeper wells and more powerful pumps to irrigate, but nonetheless face a decline in both the quantity and quality of the water they are able to pump.

-Water tables in the study area have been falling steadily over the last 15-20 years, and have reached about 600ft below ground level, risking irreversible salinization of aquifers. The declining trend is seen in observation wells and confirmed by farmers’ own recollection of water depth. The rate of decline is anywhere between 9 feet per year (based on observation wells) to 20 feet per year (based on farmer recollections).

Furthermore, this steep decline has occurred during a relatively wet period. In the next decadal period of low rainfall this rate could more than double, especially if farmers increase cropping intensity. In much of the study area, water levels are either approaching or already below mean sea level, which increases the risk of intrusion of saline or brackish water, an irreversible transition that could end agriculture in the area. In our sample, 82% of wells reported the appearance of salt in their water over the last 5-15 years. Other changes in water quality include increasing temperature (reported by 52%) fluoride (30%) and dust (30%). 82% of wells reported the appearance of salt in their water over the last 5-15 years.

– Where groundwater drops below sea level, there is a greatly increased chance for saltwater to enter underground aquifers and contaminate wells.

-A water savings of 30% through well established technologies and practices can allow the power utility in North Gujarat (UGVCL) to free up as much as 2.7 billion units of electricity for use in non-agricultural sectors, and would reduce groundwater extractions by a corresponding amount.

-Nearly all respondents expected the water table to continue its decline, and on an average expect water to last for about six years. Once that happens, farmers plan to deepen their wells (30%), migrate (30%) or restrict crop cultivation to the rainy season (20%). More than half of farmers in the area plan to abandon irrigated agriculture.

-only 9 out of 136 wells surveyed make any use of drip irrigation or sprinklers. The main reasons farmers give for lack of adoption are high cost (mentioned by 60% of farmers), land fragmentation (23%) and lack of familiarity (16%).

Full copy of report(PDF) can be accessed on this link

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