Doctor Raj Mann, a lecturer in the Department of Finance and Economics at the Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK penned a letter addressing the looming rice crisis and the effects it has already brought to Punjab, India.
In the letter, Dr. Mann states that it is important to “take a closer look at rice production in India and the use of groundwater in its cultivation.”
He states that “About 10% of the rice produced in India comes from the small state of Punjab, which merely comprises 1.53% of the geographical area of India. Rice is not a staple crop of Punjab, so a large part of the rice produced is contributed to the “central pool” for distribution in other states of India under its public distribution system.”
According to Dr. Mann, it takes about 5,000 liters of water to produce a kilogram of rice in Punjab. The production of rice in the state is heavily dependent on groundwater for irrigation. In a report published by the Central Ground Water Board, the groundwater situation of Punjab is alarming.
The groundwater extraction in Punjab is the highest in India, standing at more than 165%. A report by NASA also expressed serious concerns about the depleting groundwater resources in northern states of India.
Dr. Mann expressed concern, saying, “This situation of groundwater depletion in Punjab has arisen despite its three perennial rivers. However, due to political and national interests, most of the water from these rivers flows to the neighboring states of Rajasthan and Haryana. The disputes over the river water sharing among these states are pending in the Supreme Court of India. The ecological viability of Punjab is important for both food security in India and global rice security. Keeping in view the long-term rice security, the world should discern the rice crisis that it could face a few decades from now.”
In his letter, Dr. Mann asked for action to be taken soon to save the groundwater of Punjab. He notes that global rice security will “come at an expensive cost in the form of disastrous environmental consequences for Punjab and rice shortages at the global level.” Additionally, Dr. Mann states that “the food security of the present generation should not come at the cost of that of future generations.”