Gujarat, a highly progressive state of India, includes agriculture as an important sector. Here, despite significant government efforts on electricity sector reform and subsidy programs for efficient irrigation technologies, the highly variable rainfall has led to an agricultural groundwater use trajectory that now forces users to pump water from depths exceeding 300 m. The cost of generating the electricity for pumping water exceeds the value of crops produced by the farmers.
Agriculture is central to North Gujarat’s economy, and the state is an important producer of a range of cash crops. However, due to unsustainable energy and groundwater use patterns, there is serious concern that the region may soon face significant resource problems with devastating consequences. Energy use is more than three times the national average on a per unit hectare basis, water tables have already declined over 80 meters in the last 30 years. Future declines could result in even higher energy use for extracting groundwater from greater depths and eventually cause irreversible salinization. The impact of the prevalent situation is already being felt by the farmers, whose livelihoods are being negatively affected; many farmers are no longer able to generate net incomes that exceed the cost of subsidized electricity supplied to them. In other words, the net economic impact of their farming is negative to the state.
CIPT’s Project Initiatives
The Centers for International Projects Trust (CIPT), through its research projects and initiatives, has been assessing Water-Energy-Agriculture-Livelihoods Connect in the state of Gujarat. The ongoing CIPT initiatives focuses on climate, agricultural and water sustainability analysis that inform crop choice and practices that are regionally suitable and could deliver robust farm incomes while contributing to food and nutrition security.
1. Policy Reforms in Water and Energy Savings
CIPT co-piloted a novel mechanism to introduce metering and incentivizing water and energy use efficiency with the Government of Gujarat and Northern Gujarat Utility Company (UGVCL) in Kukarwada area of Northern Gujarat region. Recognizing the political difficulty of charging farmers the full cost of electricity, the mechanism indirectly introduces a marginal cost, by transferring to farmer financial savings (in generation cost) that result from voluntary reductions in usage. These reductions are calculated against a baseline allotment that is calculated on the basis of each pumps’ horsepower (all farmers receive power for an equal, rationed duration), and were rewarded on a per KwH basis.
The pilot was carried out with 85 agricultural consumers and over 800 farmers participated in the incentive scheme. The pilot was carried out during April 2011- March 2012 and during the pilot there was no evidence of tampering of meters to avail the benefit of the incentive scheme. For more details White Paper Link.
2. Promoting state recommended new wheat variety GW-11
CIPT is currently working with Centre of Excellence for Research on Wheat, SDAU Vijapur on promoting new wheat variety GW-11 developed by the Centre. The variety is late sowing and the duration of crop is 85-100 days with lustrous dark green leaves and initial experiments have shown that it could be potential water-energy management strategy for farmers in Kukarwada region where ground water levels have reached to approximately 250 m. The experiment was carried out directly with 69 farmers during rabi season (2012-13). During the upcoming season, CIPT is engaging 250 farmers for the experiment wherein different crop management strategies, compensation against yield loss, training and knowledge based sessions, ICT based SMS service for weather and market price information would be offered to farmers.
3. Exploring Integrated Water Energy Resource Management (IWERM) through Smart Metering and Communication
The vast majority of the Indian agricultural production is based on flood irrigation. Inefficient use of electricity in agriculture is an equally big issue that continues to bleed the Utilities, affecting the Indian economy. There is increasing awareness on the water energy nexus after the failure of a series of pilots that were focused only on water or energy or few aspects of agriculture. The conventional technologies are prohibitively expensive to monitor both these resources simultaneously and across large geographies in India. The context of IWERM is relevant when we look at solving these two vital issues that are closely inter-related. The silver lining is that energy is needed to move water and the state has absolute control over it and it is much easier to measure monitor and control power than water.
A pilot project has been selected on the Asnapura feeder of Kukarwada sub-division of UGVCL, Mehsana, Northern Gujarat region comprising of 28 pumps. These pumps will be connected on a Datamatrix Smart Water>
CIPT is now proposing to explore whether deeper integration of renewables (solar) and efficient water use can be brought together through innovation in using solar for irrigation pumping to facilitate demand side management in North Gujarat. Key innovations that we propose would include the following: soil moisture measurements as a means to scheduling irrigation; ability of farmers to monitor and utilize their own energy generation through the use of solar energy and incentivizing energy conservation thus each energy unit saved is unit created; flexibility in timing of water use through daytime supply; and exploration of smart metering concepts for enabling smart water-energy grids.
Resource Mobilization and Stakeholder Engagement
CIPT is developing a strategic framework for Resource Agency Network (RAN) where people from government, non-governmental organizations, private sector and academic institutions could come together and discuss the water-energy-agriculture-climate nexus while innovating sustainable solutions and sharing best practices. The partnerships and alliances would be created to foster the linkages between government, private sector and farmers under the public-private partnership model for research and development activities in the nexus.
CIPT has been working very closely with Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Limited (UGVCL) for several activities in Gujarat under a 3 year MoU. CIPT in coordination with UGVCL has initiated a program Integrated Water Energy Resource Management through smart metering and communication under the Datamatrix Technology. The UGVCL has been supporting CIPT through provision of ground staff for implementation. The overall progress is being reported to the Managing Director, UGVCL.