The world needs to stop taking water for granted – Urgent Action Needed for Sustainable Water Management | 16 October 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the taking urgent actions for Sustainable Water Management.


  • GS1: Distribution of Key Natural Resources across the world (including South Asia and the Indian sub-continent); factors responsible for the location of primary, secondary, and tertiary sector industries in various parts of the world (including India).


  • The theme for World Food Day 2023 is “Water is Life, Water is Food,” which highlights the importance of managing water resources wisely.
  • The article emphasizes the need for innovative and collaborative approaches to improve the management, conservation, and availability of scarce water resources.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) stress the importance of sustainable water management to address the impending food and nutrition security threats.


  • Water Availability and Food Production:
    • Water availability affects every aspect of human life, especially food and nutrition security. Rainfed agriculture depends directly on water availability, and rain and soil moisture variations can severely affect food and nutrition security.
    • For instance, about 60% of India's net sown area is rainfed, contributing to 40% of the total food production.
    • There is an urgent need to adapt to climate change by promoting technologies and practices that make rainfed production more resilient and sustainable.
    • Irrigated agriculture accounts for 72% of global freshwater withdrawals, sometimes with lasting damaging effects on the sustainability of significant ecosystems, such as seasonal rivers and deep aquifers.
  • Impact of Climate Change on Crop Production:
    • Extreme weather events and variability in water availability are severely affecting agricultural production, changing agro-ecological conditions and shifting growing seasons.
    • Changes in rainfall and higher temperatures also affect crop productivity, reducing food availability.
    • The Government of India has assessed the impact of climate change in 2050 and 2080 using climate projections and crop simulation models.
    • Without adaptation measures, rainfed rice yields in India are projected to reduce by 20% in 2050, and by 47% in 2080 scenarios, while irrigated rice yields are projected to decline by 3.5% in 2050 and 5% in 2080 scenarios.
    • Wheat yields are projected to decrease by 19.3% in 2050 and 40% in 2080, while kharif maize yields could decline by 18% and 23%.
    • In every scenario, climate change without adequate adaptation measures reduces crop yields and lowers the nutritional quality of produce.
  • Innovative Approaches for Sustainable Water Management:
    • The FAO, IFAD, and WFP are working on innovative approaches to improve sustainable water management.
    • The FAO is piloting a crop forecasting framework and model incorporating climate (weather), soil characteristics, and market information to aid rainfed farmers in making informed decisions contributing to food security.
    • The WFP supports soil and water conservation, the building or fixing of irrigation canals, dams, ponds, and dykes, as well as flood barriers through food assistance in exchange for labor.
    • Similarly, IFAD supports Indian States in leveraging the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act scheme.
    • Through safeguards during design and planning and encouraging participatory institutional development, IFAD ensures that micro-irrigation infrastructure is environmentally and socially sustainable and financially viable.
  • Climate Change Adaptation:
    • The FAO also supports the sustainable transformation of agrifood systems and climate-smart agriculture practices to improve water-use efficiency.
    • It supported the farmer water school program in Uttar Pradesh, which helped smallholder farmers.
    • Similarly, IFAD has enshrined climate change adaptation in its core strategies. It set ambitious targets in terms of leveraging climate financing to mitigate climate change by addressing the adverse impacts of agriculture and helping farmers to adapt to the increasing volatility of weather conditions, by investing in the restoration and preservation of soil health, water resources and merging modern technologies with indigenous knowledge systems to build productive and resilient production systems and value chains.

Way Forward:

  • To achieve global food and nutrition security, political commitment is needed as much as concrete investment. The needed policies and investments must promote innovative and proven technologies that allow farmers to increase their productivity, adapt to climate change and become more resilient to shocks.
  • Environmentally and socially sustainable and financially viable irrigation and water management strategies are also needed.
  • The UN's food agencies work closely with the Government of India and State governments on innovations such as Solar 4 Resilience, Secure Fishing, and the revival of millets for renewable energy promotion, food security, and nutrition.

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