As many parts of India faced rising water stress, eminent scientist K Kasturirangan Monday called for promotion of agricultural crops and practices that bring down water usage by the sector by 20 per cent.
A former Rajya Sabha member, he noted that agriculture accounts for 80 per cent of all water usage.
"Can we bring it down to 60 per cent? What kind of agricultural practices can do this?" Kasturirangan said when asked to share his thoughts on the water crisis in parts of the country.
Speaking to PTI, he suggested increasing dryland and short-term crops.
"Why can't usage of bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet), instead of rice, be thought of in mid-day meal programmes, as these dry farming crops are nutritious for children?" asked Kasturirangan, a former member of the now defunct Planning Commission of India.
He also said there should be some level of parity and policy framework for upstream, mid-stream and down-stream users of water.
Kasturirangan, a former chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation, said water leakage in many places is 30 to 40 per cent and added that plugging it would make a large amount of water available.
He pointed out that demand for water was on the increase because of climate change, increase in population and growing industrial activity, and called for a "much more optimal approach to the management of water".
On suggestions in some quarters on pricing water to reflect its scarcity and demand, he said high water prices would lead to better-off people taking more water as they can afford it, at the expense of poorer sections of society.
"....you have to be very careful when it comes to pricing water. You have to make sure that water is available for everybody. Many cannot afford it; how do you deal with it in the equitable regime?" Kasturirangan added.
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