Combating negative impact of green revolution on groundwater, soil and land in Haryana, India

Category Hydrogeology
Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author Lunkad, Shrenik Kumar; Sharma, Anita
Holding Date 10 September 2008

Food cannot be grown without water and groundwater alone has 53% share in the irrigation of agricultural land in Haryana, the remaining 47% comes from canal system of glacier- fed rivers, viz., Yamuna and Satluj originating from Himalayas. The Green Revolution enabled the small state of Haryana in northern alluvial plains of India to become an "agro-economic" state. This "grain bowl" — though occupying 1.3 % geographical area and containing 2 % of the population of India, produces 13 % wheat and about 3 % quality rice of India besides other cereals, oil seeds, sugarcane and cotton. However, Haryana paid a heavy price for this impressive agricultural development - there has been serious degradation of basic geo-resources, i.e., water-soil-land. Stagnation in agricultural production has been reached now and there is no scope for further expansion of irrigated land since 2000-2001.
Presently, Haryana’s 85 % farmland (~3.5 million ha) is cultivated and 2.96 million ha (82%) is irrigated. During the first decade of Green Revolution (1970-71 to 1980-81) the groundwater use increased tremendously from 1.0 billion m3 to 7.0 billion m3 but remained fluctuating between 5.5 to 7.0 billion m3 during next decade (1990-91). The present draft of groundwater is >8.5 billion m3 with increasing demand. Since its creation in 1966, the number of tube wells increased from 25000 to 612,000 by 2005; the total chemical fertilizer consumption increased from 4.0 kg/ha to 318kg/ha and the pesticide application from negligible to 0.5 kg/ha. Poor irrigation and crop management has rendered one-third of its land and soil salinity affected, water level decline by 3-15 meters in 12 of its 19 districts and the abuse of N-fertilizers (3.5 kg/ha in 1966 to 239 kg/ha in 2005) has lead to excessive nitrate levels in shallow groundwater (114-1800 mg/l). Groundwater in the arid western Haryana is mostly saline (TDS > 4000 mg/l) and irrational canal irrigation, in some areas, has paradoxically raised the water-table by 3.0 — 9.0 m in 7 districts causing waterlogging over 2346 km2 land of which 251 km2 is fully waterlogged.
In the land use pattern, the non-agricultural use of land has increased and 131,000 ha prime cultivable land (about 3% of the total) has been lost to urbanization undermining the FOOD SECURITY of the country.
One possible way to arrest the degradation of groundwater and soil is to switch to dry land farming. This would involve change in the irrigation method (drip and sprinkler) as well as proper selection and rotation of food crops like barley, sorghum, maize, different types of beans (pulses) and oil seeds like mustard, groundnut, sunflower, etc. and restricted use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Dry land farming could go hand in hand with the plantation of fruit trees, medicinal plants and grasses suitable to this agro-climatic zone, and animal husbandry. The same considerations hold good to adjoining north-eastern Rajasthan as well.