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Must shift to drip irrigation and grow pulses, oilseeds

Must shift to drip irrigation and grow pulses, oilseeds'
Prasad Joshi, TNN | Mar 3, 2015, 01.00PM IST



AURANGABAD: A study, conducted by advocacy group South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), revealed that while kharif crops did not have the desired yield in all 8,139 villages in Marathwada with produce less than 50% of government standards (paisewari), the rabi crops too are under cloud with all 396 villages assessed for production showing similarly poor yield. Compared with this, the area under the production of sugarcane is going up. The water consumption calculation is done assuming 187.5 lakh litre of water per hectare sugarcane as per the price policy for sugarcane report of the commission on agricultural costs and prices, ministry of agriculture (2014-15).

"The sugarcane crushing cycle that began in October 2014 will last till around March 2015. To grow this much sugarcane, the region almost emptied two Jayakwadi dams," Dandekar said.

"We have raising the issue of sugarcane cultivation in the drought-prone region of Maharashtra since 2012. Agriculture and water resource policy has utterly failed in curbing the growth of this most water-guzzling crop in the worst drought hit region. The water-thirsty sugarcane is leaving Marathwada bone dry," Dandekar said.

She added that sugarcane crushing taking place during the drought spell would consume additional 23.1 mcum water. Although Marathwada region is no stranger to droughts, it is facing a singularly acute crisis this year. The advocacy group has stressed that it makes no social, economic or environmental sense to grow sugarcane in the region.

The study suggests the use of water to grow pulses and oilseeds, which would mean livelihood security to over 21 lakh farmers. Irrigating one hectare of sugarcane is akin to irrigating 25 hectares of tur dal or more of groundnut. The area under irrigated pulses in Marathwada may have spill over into adjacent regions like Vidarbha and Solapur, which are going through unique agriculture crisis due to water scarcity.

Dandekar said that as per the Economic Survey Report of Maharashtra (2012-13), about 10.01 lakh hectares were under groundnut cultivation, mostly in Solapur and Marathwada region in 1960-61. This figure has dropped by nearly 70% to a meager 3.02 lakh hectares in 2011-12.

"What is true in the case of tur dal is also true for many other pulses, lentils and oilseeds, which we are importing currently. Contrast this with sugarcane, wherein we have not even considered the multiple occasions when the sugar industry had to be bailed out of crisis and funds had to be released for sugar factories to pay to farmers," Dandekar said.

Claiming that the earlier Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra was entrenched in sugar politics and allegedly could not take any progressive decision on sugarcane policy, SANDRP in its study report has appealed to the BJP-led state government to address the issue immediately.

"There is urgent need to put a cap on further increase in area under sugarcane cultivation, converting existing area to drip irrigation or better still, slowly phasing out the sugarcane over time from this region, providing viable options to current cane farmers and move water that is stuck in sugarcane to other productive and sustainable farming options which will benefit more farms and more farmers," the report concludes.