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Impact of climate change on groundwater resources studied

Staff Reporter
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There is a need to adapt measures to cultivate in a situation where land and water are depleting, without causing damage to the environment: V-C

Groundwater accounts for more than 60 per cent of the total agricultural water use and more than 80 per cent of drinking water requirements. Climate change has tremendous impact on groundwater resources and consequently on agriculture and also drinking water use. Realising this, a project to recommend measures to adapt to climate change has just been concluded in Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

The research findings of the project, ‘Climate Change and Groundwater Dynamics: A Hydro-Economic Analysis of Impacts and Adaptation in South India’ of the Department of Agricultural Economics, were presented to stakeholders here at a policy seminar on Thursday. The recommendations of the project along with the feedback of the stakeholders will be submitted to the Government.

The project, implemented by the Department in the Centre for Agricultural and Rural Development Studies of TNAU, was funded by South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics (SANDEE), Kathmandu, since 2011. R. Balasubramanian from the Department of Agricultural Economics, was the principal investigator, and Balaji Kannan from the Department of Remote Sensing and GIS was the co-principal investigator, of the project.

Explaining the project highlights (see box), Mr. Balasubramanian said the project used monthly groundwater level data collected over the last 40 years from over 1,700 observation wells spread throughout the State and these data were correlated with various climatic and non-climatic factors through econometric modelling. Similarly, the impact of climatic factors and groundwater levels on agricultural productivity and incomes were also studied.

“The shift to water-intensive crops such as coconut and sugarcane in response to increasing labour scarcity is a major contributing factor for increased groundwater extraction. Exploitation of groundwater in the form of deepening of existing wells and increasing the number of wells could further worsen the situation. Appropriate incentive structures such as subsidies for water-saving crops and relevant technologies could be considered as alternative mechanisms to discourage cultivation of water-intensive crops in dry areas,” he added.

K. Ramasamy, Vice-Chancellor of TNAU, said there was a need to adapt measures to cultivate in a situation where land and water are depleting, without causing damage to the environment.

“We cannot survive without urbanisation and development. But this has to be done with minimum disturbance to the environment. Tamil Nadu accounts for 58 per cent urbanisation, yet we are able to produce food. We have to ensure that in the future we adapt sustainable and environmentally safe agriculture by reusing and recycling,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

Y.E. Raj, Deputy Director General, India Meteorological Department, Chennai, inaugurated the policy seminar, and M. Dinesh Kumar, Executive Director, Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad, delivered the keynote address. The seminar was attended by representatives of the State Planning Commission, agricultural scientists, officials from Government departments, and progressive farmers.

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