|Efficiency and Equity In Groundwater Use And Management - Workshop Report 3 (IRMA, 1989)|
|4. Issues in north west region|
Efficacy and desirability of various approaches to prevent over-exploitation of groundwater were also discussed. Spacing norms, prescribed to control crowding and interference amongst wells, are difficult to enforce; when strictly enforced, they tend to discriminate against small farmers (Dhawan). Crowding of wells increases the pumping cost; increasing marginal cost of pumping, however, generally proves inadequate to check the process of declining water table. Infact, even before the depth of water table reaches a level where marginal pumping cost approaches marginal benefit, groundwater balance may get disrupted due to the intrusion of saline/brackish waters from the neighbourhood (Dhawan). This danger is more serious in areas adjoining Rajasthan, in South-West U.P. plains, South Western Haryana and Southern Punjab.
The problem of over-exploitation of groundwater is further aggravated due to subsidised electricity and horse power linked power tariff in many states which makes well-owners behave as if the marginal cost of pumping water is zero (Dhawan; Gangwar and Panghal). The issue of electricity supply to exploit groundwater was again a subject matter of intense discussion. Irregular supply of electricity creates problems in maintenance of tubewells and reduces the efficiency of both public and private tubewells (Chawla, et al).
VK Sharma's analysis for U.P. shows that improved supply of electricity would shift cropping pattern in favour of more remunerative crops, increased total production etc. in central and eastern Uttar Pradesh. It also suggests that each additional hour of electricity supply (between 15 to 20 hours a day) to tubewells would raise additional per hectare return from Rs.68 to Rs. 206 depending upon the type of tubewell (state vis-a-vis private) and farm size. VK Sharma's results need to be interpreted with care. Increased electricity supply does not alter optimum cropping pattern, income and employment at least in some regions ( VK Sharma). Also, the total quantum of electricity may not be a limiting factor but its supply in peak period may. Lastly, how much of the rural electricity supply is actually used in the operation of tubewells and how much of it goes to rural industries and other uses needs to be ascertained. In spite of these problems of interpretation, Sharma's analysis provides a range of estimates of the marginal productivity of electricity in agriculture.