The first India Meteorological Department (IMD) forecast for the 2017 southwest monsoon, which accounts for about 70% of the country’s annual precipitation, is expected on Tuesday. According to private weather forecasters, El Nino is likely to play a role again, leading to rainfall slightly below the average this year. Perhaps IMD will predict differently, but the centre plainly isn’t in the mood to take chances. It has already asked a number of vulnerable states to promote water conservation.
That is sensible advice. But good intentions, planned pushes to water storage and irrigation infrastructure and educating farmers to use less water-intensive infrastructure can only go so far. The underlying problem is the skewed economics of agriculture in India. Correcting the massive inefficiencies in water usage—currently, this sector uses about 82% of total supply—will require demand-side reform. That means tackling the subsidized agricultural electricity system that incentivises wasteful use of water and depletes water tables—a far more politically difficult option than handing out farm loan waivers.