Alternatives to rationalise consumption
Driven by conservation concerns about the huge pressure on the water resources in the country, there is a growing debate in India about the feasibility of cultivating paddy crops.
Driven by conservation concerns about the huge pressure on the water resources in the country, there is a growing debate in India about the feasibility of cultivating paddy crops. Such apprehensions are based on the premise that paddy consumes huge quantum of water and consequently it is proving to be a drain on depleting water resources in India.
On an average, 2,500 liters of water is required for producing one kg of rice. Keeping these pointers in perspective, there are views making the rounds that perhaps rice cultivators should replace paddy with other crops. Considering the heavy dependence on rice by a majority of consumers in India and also the existent large scale cultivation of paddy crop across the length and breadth of the country, a total and drastic shift towards alternate crops can disrupt the economy apart from causing disorientation among the farmers.
So what is the solution to this heavy consumption of water? Do we have to choose between water and rice?
Agriculture scientists have developed methods that offer scope for minimizing water usage in paddy cultivation. Maximum quantity of water consumption occurs during the transplanting phase. The crop is transplanted in 5 inches of water which through certain methods can be avoided.
In fact, the water used during transplanting serves only one purpose – it prevents accumulation of weeds. Explaining this practice to The Hans India, Dr. Ravindra Babu, Director, Hyderabad based-Indian Institute of Rice Research said that the farmers continue with the practice of submerging the crop in 5 inches of water because it helps them suppress the growth and proliferation of weed. “This practice was practical at a point time when there was no constraint on water resources.
But, now because of water scarcity there is no need to continue this method in cropping.” Two major problems crops up in the process of transplantation - emission of hazardous greenhouse gases (GHS) from the submerged crops in addition to the disadvantage of the roots not getting properly aerated because of the submergence. Dr. Ravindra Babu pointed out that contrary to general impressions “Rice is not a water loving crop.” According to him maximum water is consumed only during transplantation stage.
“In fact, the process of transplantation can be totally done away with, and, replaced by direct seeding. This will not reduce water usage for cultivation by 50%.” Dr Ravindra Babu informed that wetting and drying methods are also being promoted among the farmers. Farmers can save another40% water by adapting wetting and drying methods.” Moreover, by using these methods, the yield would be higher than what the farmers use to get through flooding or submergence.”
In addition to minimizing water usage, another very significant advantage of direct seeding, wetting and drying is that these methods enable reduction in the cost of manual labour. Already, these methods are being adapted by farmers in east and west Godavari, Haryana, Punjab and various other states in the country. Hopefully, once these alternate methods that rationalize water consumption gains momentum in the country, then India can have both rice and also the water.
By Satyapal Menon