Wells and Welfare in the Ganga Basin: Public Policy and Private Initiative in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, India

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"Eastern India is home to 88 million, or nearly a third of Indias rural poor. Although its industrial economy has stagnated, the region offers vast scope for accelerated development of irrigated agriculture based especially on groundwater wells. While much of South Asia suffers from acute overexploitation of groundwater resources, eastern India has over one-fourth of Indias usable groundwater resources; and less than one fifth of it is developed. Stimulating groundwater development in the region is not only central to creating livelihoods and welfare for its poor but also to addressing its syndrome of extensive waterlogging and flood-proneness. This report analyzes how public policies designed to promote groundwater development over the past 50 years have failed in their promise, and how initiative by private agents can generate the social welfare the region needs so direly. The report outlines a five-pronged strategy for attacking eastern Indias rural poverty through fuller utilization of its groundwater resources. First, eastern India needs to scrap its existing minor irrigation programs run by government bureaucracies, which gobble up funds but deliver little irrigation. Second, while the electricity-supply environment is in total disarray, innovative ideas such as decentralized retailing and metering of power and prepaid electricity cards need to be piloted as part of a broader initiative to improve the quality of power supply to agriculture. Third, programs are needed to improve the unacceptably low energy-efficiency of electric as well as diesel pumps. Fourth, there is a need to promote diesel pumps under 5-hp and improved manual irrigation technologies such as treadle pumps. Finally, above all else, east Indian States need to reform their pump subsidy schemes a la Uttar Pradesh (UP) so as to ameliorate the scarcity of pump capital that lies at the heart of the problem."
irrigation, groundwater--policy, poverty, energy, water resources--policy, economic development