Climate Change is not a hoax. It could reduce agriculture productivity and farmers’ income, the Economic Survey 2017-18 finds.
The survey, presented to parliament on Monday, holds significance as finance minister Arun Jaitley is to present the union budget on Thursday. With the general elections scheduled next year, this would be the Narendra Modi government’s last full budget. The agriculture sector accounts close to half of India’s workforce and 16% of its GDP
The survey, undersigned by Arvind Subramanian, chief economic adviser to the government of India, collates data from various studies and reports and concludes that on average, climate change could reduce annual agricultural incomes in the range of 15% to 18%. The situation worsens for unirrigated farms, with the income reducing by 20% to 25%. The survey considers the temperature predictions of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and India’s recent trends in precipitation to arrive at the conclusion.
The report also finds that the impact of climate change is particularly harsh on unirrigated farms. With more than half of India’s net sown area unirrigated—farmers depend on rainfall for water—vagaries in climate, especially the wet season of Monsoon, could only worsen the already high level of farm distress in the country.
The dilemma is, the survey says, that policymakers cannot blindly increase the spread of irrigation as India is also facing rising water scarcity and depletion of groundwater resources, especially in the northern states. It cites previously published reports to say that India pumps more than twice as much groundwater as China or United States; and analysis of groundwater stations reveals a 13% decline in the water table over the past 30 years.
The survey suggests a combination of policy changes to address the concern. It says that technologies such as drip irrigation, sprinklers, and (efficient) water management should be prioritised, and also suggests replacing the existing power subsidy that farmers benefit from with direct cash transfers.
The survey also suggests using new technologies such as drones to efficiently calculate loss and compensation to farmers. It says India needs to embrace agricultural science and technology with renewed ardour, and highlights the importance of anticipatory research to pre-empt the adverse impact of a rise in mean temperature.