Solar Irrigation for Agricultural Resilience (SoLAR) – Webinar Week


February 1, 2021 - February 5, 2021    
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


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1-5 February 2021

The IWMI-led Solar Irrigation for Agricultural Resilience (SoLAR) project funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) organized a series of six webinars between 1-5 February 2021. SoLAR project aims  to generate knowledge to sustainably manage water-energy and climate interlinkages through the promotion of solar irrigation pumps (SIPs). The goal of the project is to contribute to climate-resilient, gender-equitable, and socially inclusive agrarian livelihoods in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan by supporting government efforts to promote solar irrigation.

Achieving progress in poverty reduction with minimal carbon emission is at the core of the climate and sustainability challenge. This need is particularly acute in South Asia, where further expansion of irrigation holds the promise of pulling smallholders out of poverty, but will also result in large increases in carbon emissions due to overwhelming dependence on fossil fuel-based groundwater pumping. SIPs offer a “climate resilient” solution, yet adoption is slow. Little is also known about the impact of SIPs on groundwater use. In this six-part SDC-IWMI webinar series, we will explore some of these larger questions around energy transition and SIPs in four South Asian countries.

The webinars were 1.5 hour to 2-hour online events, and involved speakers from all four countries, as well as speakers from outside the region and was open to the general public.

Find out more about the SoLAR project. Follow IWMI on Twitter for the latest updates.

Webinar 1Webinar 2Webinar 3Webinar 4Webinar 5Webinar 6

Role of solar irrigation pumps (SIPs) in clean energy transition in South Asia

Date: Monday, 1st February 2021
15:00 – 17:00 IST (120 minutes)

In Webinar 1, we will set the scene to understand the larger systemic challenges on the road to clean energy transition in South Asia, and how SIPs can help in that transition

Moderator: Dr. Aditi Mukherji, IWMI, India

As a part of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) commitments, countries across South Asia are committed to reducing carbon emissions across multiple sectors, including agriculture. Irrigation accounts for 10 to 20 percent of total agricultural emissions in South Asia. South Asia has 25-30 million irrigation pumps. These irrigation pumps cumulatively extract roughly 250 km3 of groundwater per year, making South Asia the largest user of groundwater in the world.  Replacing fossil fuel-based pumps (diesel or electric) with solar irrigation pumps (SIPs), is a promising way of reducing gren house gas emissions, while also delivering triple benefits of assured irrigation for agricultural growth and poverty reduction, better air quality and improved health outcomes. SIPs are a part of the larger energy transition in the region and face several challenges.

This webinar will explore the larger challenges in energy transition across South Asia and explore the role effective SIP policies and programs can play in that energy transition.

Speakers and Topics:

  1. Welcome address by Dr. Corrine Demenge, SDC and Dr. Mark Smith, IWMI
  2. Political economy of energy transition in South Asia: Dr. Rahul Tongia, Centre for Social and Economic Progress, India, and Brookings Institute
  3. Challenges in energy transition, with a focus on solar energy: Dr. Rohit Chandra, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi
  4. Emissions from irrigation pumps in South Asia: The case of Black Carbon: Dr. Stuti Rawat, Education University of Hong Kong
  5. Indian DISCOMS and the lure of solar irrigation pumps: Dr. Anas Rahman, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW)


  1. Mr. Dipal Barua, Bright Green Energy Foundation, Bangladesh 
  2. Dr. Ram Dhital, Nepal Electricity Regulatory Commission, Nepal
  3. Dr. Tushaar Shah, IWMI, India
  4. Ms. Maha Qasim, ADB Institute, Pakistan

Speakers and panelists profiles

Solarization of Indian Agriculture: Challenges and Prospects  

 Date: Tuesday, 2nd February 2021 
15:00 – 17:00 IST (120 minutes) 

In Webinar 2, we will look at the trajectory of change in SIP landscape in India, and the efforts of various state governments in promoting SIPs, including future prospects of national SIP programs like the KUSUM LINK program

Moderator: Mr. Shilp Verma, IWMI, India

Over the past decade, Solar Irrigation Pumps (SIPs) have captured the imagination of Indian farmers with numbers growing from less than 4,000 in 2010 to nearly 200,000 by 2020. With central support from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), several states have actively promoted SIPs – largely to replace diesel pumps, but also to replace electric pumps with grid-connected SIPs in a few states. The Government of India now plans to take SIP expansion to the next orbit through its ambitious Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) program. With an outlay of ₹38,000 crores (US$ 5.2 billion) and target solar generation capacity of 27 GWp, PM-KUSUM is arguably the world’s largest agrisolarization program. Besides transitioning irrigation to clean and renewable energy, two key objectives of PM-KUSUM are delivering energy security (urja suraksha) and welfare (utthan) for farmers. This webinar, jointly organized by SDC, IWMI and GIZ will discuss evolution of solar irrigation in India, experiences of several Indian states, and the challenges and opportunities facing PM-KUSUM. 

Speakers and Topics: 

  1. Evolution of solar irrigation in India: How did we get here? Neha Durga, IWMI
  2. Solar Irrigation Pilots and Experiments: Experience from the States
    • Mukhyamantri Saur Krushi Vahini Yojana (Maharashtra): Mr. Ashwin Gambhir, PRAYAS
    • Surya Raitha (Karnataka): ManjunathaV., Institute of Social and Economic Change
    • Solar BLDC Pumpsets Scheme (Andhra Pradesh): Siddharth Goel, International Institute of Sustainable Development, IISD
    • Solar Irrigation in tribal Jharkhand: Ayan Deb, Central India Initiative (CInI/ Sustain+)
    • Solar Irrigation pumps in Chhattisgarh: Anas Rahman, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW)
    • Asset Utilization of Solar Pumps (Five States): Mandvi Singh, GIZ India 
  3. Solarizing India’s Irrigation: Can PM-KUSUM live up to its promise? Abhishek Jain, CEEW


  1. Dr. Tushaar Shah, IWMI
  2. Dr. Priya Jadhav, IIT Bombay
  3. Mr. Ganesh Neelam, Tatatrusts
  4. Mr. Nilanjan Ghose, GIZ, India
  5. Ms. Divya Kashyap, SDC, India
  6. Mr. Mohinder Gulati, Energy Expert 

Speakers and panelists profiles

Solar irrigation in Bangladesh: Current situation and future prospects

Date: Wednesday, 3rd February 2021 
Time: 15:30 – 17:30 BST/ 15:00 – 17:00 IST (120 minutes) 

In Webinar 3, we will look at the future of SIPs in Bangladesh, including the various institutional models being used for promotion of SIPs in the country

Moderator: Dr. Aditi Mukherji, IWMI, India

Bangladesh has committed to reduce its carbon emissions unconditionally by 5 percent by 2030 in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) pledges under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Solar irrigation provides a great opportunity to replace diesel pumps in off-grid areas with a cleaner energy alternative. More than 1800 solar irrigation pumps have been set up, with a total installed capacity of 46.2 MW. This is expected to expand substantially in the coming years. The Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCOL) is a pioneer in developing the SIPs business model in Bangladesh. It has set a target of installing 10,000 SIPs by 2027. In the third episode of the SoLAR Webinar series, experts from Bangladesh will discuss the current status and future challenges of solar irrigation in Bangladesh.  

This webinar will explore some of the following questions:  

  • Is Bangladesh on track to meet its targets? 
  • What are some of the operational models for SIP promotion in the country?
  • What are the challenges and emerging opportunities?

Speakers and Topics:

  1. Roadmap of solar irrigation in Bangladesh: Mr. Anthony Jude , Advisor, Asian Development Bank
  2. Solar Irrigation: Future prospects: Mr. Mohammad Golam Sarware Kainat, Director, Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority, Bangladesh 
  3. Early results from IWMI-IDCOL survey: Marie-Charlotte Buisson, IWMI
  4. Challenges and opportunities of grid connected solar irrigation pumps in India: Mr. J.K. Jethani, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India


  1. Mr. Mohammad Sarwar Hossain, Project Director (SIP) & Deputy Chief Engineer, Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation
  2. Ms. Salima Jahan, Member SREDA (Joint Secretary) 
  3. Md. Shamshul Huda, Barind Multipurpose Development Authority 
  4. Mr. Anwar Hossain, WAVE Foundation, Bangladesh

Concluding remarks and vote of thanks  

  1. Mr. Monirul Islam, Deputy CEO, IDCOL

Speakers and panelists profiles

Appropriate Institutional Modalities for Grid-Connected Solar Irrigation Pumps in Nepal

Date: Thursday, 4th February 2021 
Time: 10:00 – 11:30 NPT / 9:45 11:15 IST (90 minutes) 

In Webinar 4, we will explore the possibility of grid-connected SIPs in Nepal, and the opportunities and challenges that they offer

Moderator: Dr. Manohara Khadka, IWMI Nepal  

The Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) is the agency responsible for developing and promoting renewable energy technologies in Nepal. AEPC has been promoting solar irrigation pumps (SIPs) since 2016 as guided by Renewable Energy Subsidy Policy (2016) and Subsidy Delivery Mechanism Guidelines (2016). Since the start of its program in 2016-17, AEPC has supported nearly 1,400 SIPs through its subsidy program, and has contributed to raising national interest in the SIP program 

Subsequently, central as well as provincial and local governments are putting emphasis on expanding SIPs as a means to enhance access to irrigation. So far, Nepal has taken the off-grid route to solar irrigation, but the need for grid connection is being increasingly felt due to reasons which this webinar will explore.  

The Nepal Electricity Authority, along with AEPC and IWMI are embarking on a small pilot to facilitate grid connection of SIP in Nepal. In the fourth episode of the SoLAR Webinar series, experts from Nepal will discuss the modalities and future of gridconnected SIPs across the country.  

Speaker and Topic:

  1. Are SIPs utilized to theirfull potential? Early evidence from SIPs installed in Nepal Tarai: Dr. Ram Fishman, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  2. Institutional modalities of grid connected SIPs: A review: Dr. Vishnu Pandey, IWMI Nepal/Tribhuvan University, Nepal


  1. Mr. Madhusudhan Adhikari, Executive Director, AEPC, Government of Nepal
  2. Ms. Ranju Pandey, Manager, NEA, Government of Nepal
  3. Ms. Resha Piya, British Embassy Kathmandu
  4. Mrs. Kiran Kumari Thakur, Deputy Mayor, Gaur Municipality, Rautahat district
  5. Mr. Anjal Niraula, Gham Power

Concluding remarks and vote of thanks

  1. Dr. Aditi Mukherji, IWMI India

Speakers and panelists profiles

The potential of Solar irrigation for Pakistan: a critical inquiry

Date: Thursday, 4th February 2021 
Time: 14:30 -16:00 pm PST (90 minutes) 

In Webinar 5, we will take a critical look at the current status and future potential of SIPs in Pakistan

Moderator: Dr. Mohsin Hafeez, IWMI, Pakistan 

Pakistan’s National Water Policy endorses the importance of irrigated agriculture for the national economy, but highlights low irrigation efficiency and low water productivity as major challenges facing the sector. Groundwater currently meets about 60% irrigation water requirements of Pakistan. There are approximately 1.3 million tube wells, out of which about 83% are diesel-powered and have been installed mostly at shallow depths (20-40 ft). These tube wells together extract about 55-million-acre feet of underground water for irrigation, which is 20% more than that available from the canals. Solar powered irrigation systems provide a promising alternative to the diesel-powered tube wells but adoption at scale has faced many problems in Pakistan. Farmers are unable to invest in solar due to high initial costs as well as the low discharge capacities as compared to the diesel-powered The major concern amongst water professionals on Pakistan is that any conversion of diesel pumping to PV solar will result in indiscriminate pumping leading to further groundwater depletion. The government has launched various schemes to promote solar pumping in conjunction with High Efficiency Irrigation Systems (HEIS). Is this the right approach? The 5th episode of the Solar webinar series will discuss these issues with the sector experts to find out the best possible future course of action for Pakistan in its policy related to solar based irrigation systems.

Speaker and Topic:

  1. The potential of Solar irrigation for Pakistan: a critical inquiry -  Dr. Imran Khalid, SDPI, Pakistan 


  1. Ms. Sara Hayat, Climate Change and Legal Expert, Pakistan
  2. Dr. Sardar Mohazzam, NEECA, Ministry of Energy, Pakistan 
  3. Mr. Tahir Anwar, FWMC, Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Pakistan
  4. Mr. Shoaib Ahmed, SAARC Energy Centre, Islamabad

Concluding remarks and vote of thanks

  1. Dr. Azeem Shah, IWMI Pakistan

Speakers and panelists profiles

Will solar irrigation deepen the groundwater crisis in South Asia?

Date: Friday, 5th February 2021 
Time: 15:00 – 17:00 IST (120 minutes) 

In Webinar 6, the final of the series, we will discuss ways of managing SIP programs and policies in ways that avoid leading to groundwater over-exploitation

Moderator: Dr. Alok Sikka, IWMI, India 

South Asia is the world’s largest user of groundwater. Groundwater irrigation has been critical to agricultural production in the region and its depletion in parts of South Asia is a threat to future food security in South Asia. Climate change is further expected to affect recharge through increasing variability in rainfall. Intensive groundwater irrigation in the region has been largely farmer-led, who in turn benefitted from state policies like subsidized electricity and credit. Studies have shown that energy price plays an important role in determining farmers’ pumping behavior. Farmers who face lower marginal costs of pumping tend to pump more intensively than farmers who face a higher marginal cost. While up-front costs of solar irrigation pumps (SIPs) are high, running costs is virtually zero and this gives rise to the widespread apprehension that SIPs may promote groundwater over-exploitation, especially in groundwater scarce parts of South Asia. What is the current state of evidence on impact of SIPs on groundwater pumping? Is groundwater over-exploitation a concern everywhere in the region?  Is it inevitable that SIPs will lead to groundwater over-exploitation, or is it possible to design SIP programs in ways that provides incentives to farmers to reduce groundwater pumping? What would make or break such incentive programs? In the 6th and final webinar of the SoLAR webinar series, speakers will reflect on these questions.  

Speakers and Topics: 

  1. Current state of groundwater crisis in India and what can we do about it? Dr. Veena Srinivasan, ATREE, India
  2. Impact of climate change on groundwater and India’s agriculture: Dr. Meha Jain, University of Michigan, USA
  3. Measuring groundwater use through electricity usage: A case study from China: Dr. Wolfgang Kinzelbach, ETH Zurich
  4. Groundwater usage among electric and diesel farmers, and implications for SIPs in Bangladesh: Dr. Mainuddin Mohammad, CSIRO, Australia  


  1. Dr. Tushaar Shah, IWMI, India
  2. Dr. Anwar Zahid, BWDB, Bangladesh
  3. Ms. Simi Kamal, Pakistan

Concluding remarks and vote of thanks

  1. Ms. Divya Kashyap, SDC, India office
  2. Dr. Aditi Mukherji, IWMI India

Speakers and panelists profiles