Chanakya IAS Academy Blog


Introduction: The article focuses upon the severe water scarcity problems in India and urgent need to price this precious natural resource.

Topics:Agriculture, Paper-III

  • India is a water scarce country with 18% of world’s population and only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources.
  • In the last two years we have witnessed the two consecutive droughts.
  • An approach towards sustainable water regime:
  • Water pricing is the only long-term, sustainable solution to promote efficient and equitable use of this precious natural resource. But moving towards an elaborate water pricing regime is easier said than done.
  • There are three basic challenges associated with this:
    1. The first challenge will be to make a case for water pricing at a time when the most vulnerable to water shortage are already reeling under severe economic hardship.
      • But without a price on water usage, it is they who will suffer the worst consequences of a drought.
      • A 2015 study by the International Monetary Fund concluded that water subsidies provided through public utilities amounted to 0.6% of global gross domestic product in 2012 and are “also inequitable, disproportionately benefiting upper-income groups”.
      • Inefficient agricultural usage of water and exports of water-intensive crops make India a large virtual exporter of water—not a proud performance for a water-stressed country. Especially not when the domestic scarcity of water has not been priced into the exports.
      • A counter-argument will be that water pricing may erode India’s export advantage. But this argument ignores how the status quo continues to erode the competitiveness of farmers living in water-deficient parts of India—also some of the same regions where the incidence of farmer suicides is high.
    2. The second challenge to introducing water pricing is the entrenched political economy in different parts of India.
      • The severe water crisis in Latur was in stark contrast to flourishing fields of sugarcane, a water-guzzling crop, sustained with the patronage of politicians in the state of Maharashtra. Then the public procurement policies also promote cultivation of water-intensive crops, sometimes in those very states where the usage is most inefficient.
    3. The third challenge is the inherent design problems associated with water pricing. This is because the government does exercise control over the sources of water as it does over other natural resources
      • It is important to target irrigation water for pricing purposes because it alone comprises—according to ministry of water resources data—more than 78% of the total water usage in India.
      • Also, irrigation consumption is an area where the scope for increase in efficiency is very high.
    Moving Towards a Water Pricing Regime
  • The pricing Methodology:
    • Sixty-one per cent of the irrigation uses surface water which will require metering and appropriate pricing. Groundwater has to be priced through proxies—electricity or diesel—used by farmers to pump the water.
    • The strategy for pricing should be such that the cost of migration from one method of irrigation to another—or from electricity to diesel—offsets the difference in cost between the two.
    • An important part of this effort will also involve the separation of electric feeders for agricultural and non-agricultural purposes—already a focus of the government under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana.
  • Several countries including rich ones such as Singapore and poor ones such as Burkina Faso have, within their own constraints, benefited from tying paani to paisa. India needs to do the same.

Question: India is a water scarce country. Water pricing is the only long-term, sustainable solution to promote efficient and equitable use of this precious natural resource. Discuss. Suggested Approach:

Suggested Approach:

  1. In the introduction, highlight the level of scarcity and the need of water.
  2. Then discuss about the need for pricing water, its benefits and challenges.
  3. Give other solutions such as bringing awareness among general public etc.


Hindi Version:Read In Hindi

Source: Livemint Editorial

Read 1641 times Last modified on Monday, 20 June 2016 18:04

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