Excessive cultivation of water intensive sugarcane lowers the groundwater level
The reply to an application filed under the Right to Information (RTI) Act has stated that in several tehsils of Pune cultivation of sugarcane, a water intensive crop, has increased immensely leading to lowering of water table. The data provided in the reply states that the Khadakwasla dam project had originally earmarked 10 per cent of the total irrigated land for sugarcane but the cropping pattern was modified by the departments of irrigation and of agriculture thus bringing the share of sugarcane in total irrigated crops to 5 per cent in order to defy water scarcity.
However, the 2012-13 figures show that out of 5,488 hectares of total irrigated land, around 2,000 hectares was under sugarcane (almost 40 per cent). Due to over utilization of water for sugarcane cultivation, the ground water is showing fast declining trend in Indapur, Daund, Baramati and Haveli tehsils as reported by the Groundwater Survey and Development Authority (GSDA).
Officers from agriculture department have said that it is not possible to reduce the area under sugarcane but they are promoting drip irrigation to conserve water. However, very few farmers have adopted drip irrigation for sugarcane fields, leading to high groundwater extraction.