pdf Popular

A 'drought-free' Maharashtra? Politicising water conservation for rain-dependent agriculture

Sameer H. Shah
Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability (IRES), The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; sameer.shah@alumni.ubc.ca

Leila M. Harris
Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability (IRES) and the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice (GRSJ), The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; lharris@ires.ubc.ca

Mark S. Johnson
Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability (IRES) and the Department of Earth, Ocean & Atmospheric Sciences, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; mark.johnson@ubc.ca

Hannah Wittman
Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability (IRES) and the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada; hannah.wittman@ubc.ca

ABSTRACT: Soil moisture conservation ('green water') and runoff capture ('blue water') can reduce agricultural risks to rainfall variation. However, little is known about how such conjoined initiatives articulate with social inequity when up-scaled into formal government programmes. In 2014, the Government of Maharashtra institutionalised an integrative green-blue water conservation campaign to make 5000 new villages drought-free each year (2015-2019). This paper analyses the extent to which the campaign, Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, enhanced the capture, equity, and sustainability of water for agricultural risk reduction. We find government interests to demonstrate villages as 'drought-free' affected the character and implementation of this integrative campaign. First, drainage-line and waterbody initiatives were disproportionately implemented over land-based adaptations to redress water scarcity. Second, initiatives were concentrated on public land – and less so on agricultural plots – to achieve drought-free targets. Third, the campaign conflated raising overall village water availability with improvements in water access. These dynamics: 1) limited the potential impact of water conservation; 2) excluded residents, including members of historically disadvantaged groups, who did not possess the key endowments and entitlements needed to acquire the benefits associated with drought-relief initiatives; and 3) fuelled additional groundwater extraction, undermining water conservation efforts. Villages will not be drought-free unless water conservation benefits are widespread, accessible, and long-term.

KEYWORDS: Agriculture, drought, water conservation, inequity, Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, India