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Managing Water Resources


Anjal Prakash

GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT IN INDIA: PHYSICAL, INSTITUTIONAL AND POLICY ALTERNATIVES
By M. Dinesh Kumar with contributions from O.P. Singh
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2007, pp. 354, Rs. 480.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 9 September 2007

Technological changes in agriculture and intensive use of groundwater led to a spurt in water exchange for irrigation in many locations in India. Dense groundwater exchange markets developed in the early 1980s in regions, which were suitable for sinking deep tubewells leading to debates over its nature and way of functioning. A group of academicians advocated having dense and competitive groundwater markets on grounds of efficiency and accessibility to the resource without unpacking nuances of unequal social relationships, ecological and historical functions that shaped and determine groundwater access and use. North Gujarat became a historic case for groundwater based agrarian economy and triggered intense debate over management, distribution and use of groundwater in India. In the process of understanding the social and environmental change, the region also attracted much scholarly work on groundwater management that includes technological, economic and social studies on changing ecological situation and its impact on the society at large. The book Groundwater Management in India is one such contribution to the problem of groundwater management that evolved from research locations in north Gujarat.   The book revolves around the question—what kind of physical, economic and policy instruments would be effective in arresting groundwater depletion problems and what institutional arrangements would be required for their effective implementation? Through nine research papers, the book tries to answer these ever-debated questions related to management of groundwater in India. It is divided into 11 chapters. 52 pages of text matters of Chapter 2 in the book are dedicated to understanding what the authors describe as ‘groundwater socio-ecology of India’ in a strategic manner (whatever that means). Without defining the contours of groundwater socio-ecology of India, the chapter looks largely like a critique of scholarly work done by DebRoy and Shah (2003) under a similar title. DebRoy and Shah, calling groundwater a ‘democratic resource’ due to users having direct access to it, show that the trends in groundwater use in India over the decades has contributed to agricultural wealth creation. Groundwater contributes more to agricultural well being and rural wealth than any other irrigation source per se. The chapter critiques the methodology used by DebRoy and Shah concluding that there is no direct correlation between the number of wells, groundwater usage patterns, population density and area under cultivation. What is surprising is that after making the point of rich farmers controlling groundwater economy in many locations, the authors focus largely on technical understanding of groundwater ...


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