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Public Provision and Protection of Natural Resources: Groundwater Irrigation in Rural India


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  • Sheetal Sekhri



This paper examines the trade-off between resource intensive development and preservation of natural resources in the context of groundwater. Use of public schemes that expand groundwater irrigation to mitigate poverty is challenged as being unsustainable, especially when water tables around the world are rapidly depleting. This paper evaluates the effects one such scheme on groundwater use in northern India with the intent to determine if these schemes accelerate water depletion. On the contrary, I find that the program decreased total use of groundwater. I propose a mechanism that explains these findings, and test it using village-level longitudinal census data on wells and aquifer depth. The model predicts that public provision has a heterogeneous impact on the aquifers and it leads to sustainable use, when the fixed costs for private well provision are high. Consistent with the predictions, I find that there is a significant jump in the water-saving effects of the scheme at the water table depth at which the fixed costs of water provision rise substantially due to the technological limitations of surface pumps.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Virginia, Department of Economics in its series Virginia Economics Online Papers with number 376.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Handle: RePEc:vir:virpap:376

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Cited by:
  1. Sheetal Sekhri, 2013. "Missing Water: Agricultural Stress and Adaptation Strategies in Response to Groundwater Depletion in India," Virginia Economics Online Papers, University of Virginia, Department of Economics 406, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  2. Shreyasee Das, 2012. "State Rights over Water and Agricultural Productivity: Evidence from the Krishna Basin," Working Papers, UW-Whitewater, Department of Economics 12-03, UW-Whitewater, Department of Economics.
  3. Michael Greenstone & B. Kelsey Jack, 2013. "Envirodevonomics: A Research Agenda for a Young Field," NBER Working Papers 19426, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Richard Hornbeck & Pinar Keskin, 2011. "The Evolving Impact of the Ogallala Aquifer: Agricultural Adaptation to Groundwater and Climate," NBER Working Papers 17625, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Pranab Bardhan & Dilip Mookherjee & Neha Kumar, 2009. "State-Led or Market-Led Green Revolution? Role of Private Irrigation Investment vis-a-vis Local Government Programs in West Bengal’s Farm Productivity Growth," Working Papers id:2209, eSocialSciences.


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  1. Public Provision and Protection of Natural Resources: Groundwater Irrigation in Rural India (AEJ:AE 2011) in ReplicationWiki


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