Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Great Madhya Pradesh Irrigation Boom Exposed!!

Madhya Pradesh has hit the headlines with its massive increases in agricultural production generally and wheat production in particular. It is now the largest wheat producing state in India surpassing Punjab and Haryana and the average yields per hectare are also almost the same as that for India as a whole at 2.7 tonnes per hectare. This has mainly been due to a spurt in irrigation and the bringing of more and more of pastures, fallows and wastes into cultivation. Therefore, a data based assessment of the extent of irrigation in the state and how it has increased over the past decade would be helpful in understanding this spurt in agricultural production.  However, when one tries to get some hard data regarding the exact extent of irrigation in the state one comes up with a bewildering variance between various sources. The Madhya Pradesh Water Resources Department on its website states that in 2014-15, the latest year for which data is available there, the actual irrigation from canals of irrigation projects was 23.9 lakh hectares ( The Ministry of Water Resources of the Central Government puts this figure at 26.9 lakh hectares for the same year ( Whereas the Department of Land Records of Madhya Pradesh puts the figure for canal irrigation for 2012, which is the latest year for which it has the data at 12.7 lakh hectares only ( If we add the data for tank irrigation and lift irrigation from streams, dams and canals, available at this site to the canal irrigation data, to get the total surface water irrigation area, then it comes to, 26.1 lakh hectares. The land record data is the most reliable because it is compiled from the reports filed by the Patwaris or village level revenue staff. Even though these Patwaris often put in rough data, since, being government servants they are all scrimshankers and do not actually go to each and every field to estimate how much of it has been irrigated as they should be doing, nevertheless, their estimates can be taken as the most reliable data that is available. The ministries of water resources of the Central and Madhya Pradesh Governments have not revealed how they have estimated their data regarding canal irrigation. So we can take the figure for surface water irrigation in Madhya Pradesh to be approximately 26 lakh hectares. The data for ground water irrigation provided by the department of land records for 2012 is 23.9 lakh hectares from tube wells and 28.6 lakh hectares from open wells. Thus, the cumulative irrigation from ground water is 52.5 lakh hectares which is double that from surface water irrigation and this is what has spurred the agricultural production boom in Madhya Pradesh.
However, this agricultural production bonanza has not come without a price. The huge increase in groundwater irrigation has depleted the confined aquifers of the water stored in them over thousands of years and the water table has gone down to more than 100 meters below the ground level, so that the Central Groundwater Board has demarcated a majority of districts as over exploited and critical with respect to groundwater availability ( This precipitate lowering of the groundwater levels has increased the need for power to pump it up. Since the price of electric power is prohibitive and if charged even at cost to the farmers, would lead to their bankruptcy, the Madhya Pradesh Government has to provide a huge subsidy in tariffs for electricity to farmers of about Rs 3000 crores annually ( In many cases farmers lift water from canals, tanks and streams using this cheap subsidised supply of electricity, augmenting surface water irrigation area also as shown in the pictures below.

Thus, both in terms of the availability of water and power to pump it, the agricultural production boom in Madhya Pradesh is unsustainable and bound to stagnate and collapse in the near future as it has now done in Punjab and Haryana where it had occurred earlier. Given the importance of ground water to agricultural production and its rapid depletion and the way in which this has created a deep crisis in Punjab and Haryana, one would have expected the Governments at the Centre and the State to promote artificial recharge and water harvesting in a big way but apart from paying lip service, very little is being done in terms of planning and financial allocation to actualise this on the ground.
A recently published computer analysis of the annual reports of the World Bank over the past sixty five years has shown that over time these have had lesser and lesser facts and greater and greater jargon and rhetoric ( The Governments of India and Madhya Pradesh have followed suit and are tom-toming the agriculture and irrigation success of the state as was done earlier for Punjab and Haryana, without in any way considering the serious future downsides associated with such temporary and unsustainable means of pushing up irrigation.

1 comment:

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