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Groundwater Irrigation in India: Gains, Costs and Risks


  • Gandhi, Vasant P.
  • N V Namboodiri


Groundwater has rapidly emerged to occupy a dominant place in India.'s agriculture and food security in the recent years. It has become the main source of growth in irrigated area over the past 3 decades, and it now accounts for over 60 percent of the irrigated area in the country. It is estimated that now over 70 percent of India.'s food grain production comes from irrigated agriculture, in which groundwater plays a major role. Since the development of groundwater irrigation has not largely been government or policy driven . has happened gradually through highly decentralized private activity, this revolution has often gone largely unrecognized. However, despite this huge significance, groundwater irrigation is heading for a crisis in India and needs urgent understanding and attention. The number of irrigation blocks considered overexploited is increasing at an alarming rate of 5.5 percent per year. The number of blocks in which, officially, the creation of wells must completely stop is scaling new heights every year. Yet, the sinking of wells continues rapidly at enormous private, public and environmental cost. The way India will manage its groundwater resource in the future will clearly have very serious implications for the future growth and development of the agriculture sector in India, as well as the alleviation of poverty in India.

Suggested Citation

  • Gandhi, Vasant P. & N V Namboodiri, 2009. "Groundwater Irrigation in India: Gains, Costs and Risks," IIMA Working Papers WP2009-03-08, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:iim:iimawp:8316

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    1. Tsur, Yacov, 1993. "The Economics Of Conjunctive Ground And Surface Water Irrigation Systems: Basic Principles And Empirical Evidence From Southern California," Staff Papers 14138, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
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