05 March, 2021

Rice In Deep Water! Why Green Revolution Is Facing Watery Death In Haryana

Rapidly dwindling water table is putting Haryana farmers in a dilemma. The government is discouraging harvesting water-intensive crops as agriculture alone consumes 80 per cent of groundwater.

In Deep Water
Workers at a paddy field in Sonipat
Photograph by Vivek Tripathi
Rice In Deep Water! Why Green Revolution Is Facing Watery Death In Haryana

That it has yanked the government into action suggests the situation must have been seriously alarming. The average water table in Haryana has gone down by over 10 metres in the past 20 years. In the regions where paddy is grown, water levels have been depleting at the rate of one metre every year. The crop’s appetite for water is immense—the production of just one kilogram requires close to 5,000 litres.

To check the rapid depletion, the state government came up with a solution two months ago—encourage farmers to grow non-paddy crops such as maize or pulses. One kilogram of corn requires 1,000-1,500 litres of water. To incentivise production, the government gave them seeds for free, a cash dole of Rs 2,000, and the promise to procure the grain at the minimum standard price (MSP) of Rs 1,700 per quintal. The goal of the scheme, named Jal Hi Jivan Hai, was to divert 50,000 hectares of paddy in seven dark-zone blocks (where the withdrawal of groundwater exceeds its ­recharge) of as many districts to other crops.

The scheme made farmers...

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