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Sustaining Groundwater resources for stabilising agrarian livelihood: A case study of South-western Haryana

IWRA 2021 Online Conference One Water, One Health
Theme 1: How can we better manage water for food and public health in a changing world?
Author(s): Mr Partik Kumar, Mr Mohit Rangi, Mr Kulvinder Singh

Mr Partik Kumar - Revitalising Rainfed Agriculture Network
Mr Mohit Rangi - Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak
Mr Kulvinder Singh - Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai

Keyword(s): Groundwater, Agrarian livelihood, desertification, nutrition, Haryana


The study was conducted to understand, how and whether the changes in agriculture had led to the depletion of water resources in the semi-arid region of Southwestern Haryana, India and at the same time, what are the socio-economic-ecological implications of water depletion in the region.

The water, as well as the land resources in southwestern Haryana, are accelerating towards an unpleasant slope. The detrition of groundwater and soil health is impacting human health as well as incurring a high  ecological cost in form of increasing desertification.

A Mixed-method approach was adopted to conduct this study and Multi-stage sampling was used during this study. The study region i.e. south-western Haryana was selected because it was facing a high rate of  groundwater depletion and had the highest water table in whole Haryana. Also, it is topography and livelihood pattern are different from the other parts of the state. The study block was selected through the purposive sample and as Badhra is the ‘Dark Zone’ and Notified by the CGWB, so selected. The three sample villages were also selected through purposive sampling based on their location in context to the canal system and the Aravali Hills. The sampling for the respondents was stratified sampling based on class and caste. A total of 53 samples were taken for the survey. To get the sample among a particular class as well as caste snowball sampling was used. The survey, FGDs and semi-structured interviews were used as a research tool for this study. This study was conducted from April 2017 to February 2018, so both cropping seasons could be covered.

A data set of study villages was taken, where the village level agricultural records of cropping pattern and irrigation sources of past 45 years was analyzed apart from the various other agrarian policies and found that the cropping pattern had changed post 70’s towards more water-intensive crops like Cotton, Wheat and Mustard in place of Bajra, Ragi and Gram. Also, the great shift was also found on the irrigation side, wherein pre 70’s era, the whole cropping system was rain-fed but later completely shifted to irrigated one. This shift was supported by agrarian policies such as a subsidy for HYV seeds, subsidy for agricultural consumption of electricity and a monetary incentive for shifting to groundwater-based irrigation in place of rain-fed agriculture in the semiarid zones. During the same period of time, the technological advancement for accessing the aquifers had also backed these changes in cropping pattern. These changes were also pushed by the unreliable rainfall in the region and continuously changing nature in terms of its timing of occurrence and the reducing number of rainy  days. For some initial years, this shift had benefited the farmers by increasing the farm production but over the years as the Cost of cultivation started increasing due to depleting water table and lowering fertility of the soil, the profit margin started declining and slowly made agriculture an economically non-viable venture in the region. The impact of these externalities of agrarian policies and technological advancement are mainly affecting the marginalized farmers in the region i.e. marginal and small land operator as well as the scheduled case farmers. As an outcome, the marginalized are becoming resource-poor day by day. As the groundwater is the
only source of drinking water, domestic water and irrigation, so its declining state is a concern of the life and livelihood of many people in the semi-arid region of Haryana and has the potential to lead a large-scale migration with equal impact on the ecology.

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