Excess Irrigation Over Northern India Increasing Weather Extremes & Risking Agriculture, Cites Study

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A study conducted by climate researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay has found that excess irrigation over northern India shifts the September monsoon rainfall towards the north-western part of the subcontinent increasing widespread weather extremes over Central India and hence, expose vulnerable farmers and their crops to risks of failure.

Subimal Ghosh, Professor in Department of Civil Engineering and Convener at Interdisciplinary Programme in Climate Studies (IDPCS), a Centre of Excellence at IIT Bombay supported by the Department of Science and Technology and his climate group, investigated the impact of agricultural water use on the Indian Summer Monsoon using a climate model.

While speaking to NewsMobile Ghosh said, “Northern Indian irrigation is uncontrolled. And in this part of India major crop is paddy, which has to be kept submerged in water. Now, to understand the impact of this kind of irrigation, a model has to be followed. However, most of such models have been adopted from western countries that have different environmental characteristics, and hence, they show wrong results.”

“We developed a model considering north Indian type of irrigation and when we applied that, this uncontrolled irrigation shifts the September monsoon rainfall towards the north-western.”

The study establishes that monsoon precipitation is sensitive to the choice of irrigation practices in South Asia can help plan agricultural practices in this region.

In the latest update, the Ministry of Science & Technology has also noted South Asia is one of the most heavily irrigated regions of the world, largely using groundwater, and its major summer crop is paddy which is cultivated in water flooded fields. Hence it was pertinent to study how such practices can influence the monsoons which form the fulcrum of this agro-based economy.

In another study, Prof. Subhankar Karmakar from IDPCS, IIT Bombay, and his research group identified for the first time that risks for rice and wheat have increased in the recent decade, with wheat at a two-fold higher magnitude than rice. The study followed the Assessment Report 5 of IPCC definition to quantify ‘Risk’ and has been published in ‘Environmental Research Letters.

Another finding obtained from this study was extreme rainfall in recent decades in Central India has been increasing, and this is also caused by an increase in irrigation and consequent increase in evapotranspiration (the sum of evaporation from the land surface plus transpiration from plants).



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