India is the world’s largest consumer of groundwater, extracting twice as much as China, the world’s most populous country. India extracted 250 cubic kilometre of groundwater in 2010–1.2 times the capacity of the world’s biggest dam–of which 89% was used for irrigation, 9% by homes, and 2% by industries. Subsidised electricity for farmers, who use it to pump groundwater, is largely to blame, according to Tushaar Shah, economist and public policy specialist, and former director of the Institute of Rural Management in Anand, Gujarat.
Currently a senior fellow at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in Anand, Shah helmed a pilot project in rural Gujarat that facilitated the creation of a farmers’ solar power cooperative. In an interview with IndiaSpend, Shah discussed the possibility of increasing farmers’ income by using solar power and the need for restricting power subsidies to farmers. He also spoke about the challenges and possibilities for water governance, and why the interlinking of rivers may never materialise.