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Farmers waste 800 litres of water to grow a kg of paddy

  • Published at 01:42 am January 13th, 2019
Planting rice
Farmers produce 19.5 million metric tons of rice a year Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Even though it is possible to produce 1 kg of paddy using 2,500 litres of water,  they use 3,300 litres, not knowing farming methods to reduce the amount of water needed as input

Farmers across the country are misusing some 800 litres of water in producing each kilogram of paddy.

Even though it is possible to produce 1 kg of paddy using 2,500 litres of water,  they use 3,300 litres, not knowing farming methods to reduce the amount of water needed as input.  

Nasiruzzaman, secretary in-charge of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Agriculture, told UNB how farmers in the past used 5,000 litres of water to produce one kg of paddy. That has come down to 3,300 liters.

“A farmer has to pay a fixed amount to deep tube-well (used as water source) owners for irrigating a certain size of paddy field for a full season. As a result, there is no incentive for him to save on irrigation as he has to pay the full amount. This is how he misuses the water,” Nasiruzzaman said. 

Farmers irrigate their arable land from tube-wells installed by Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC), Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA), and privately owned tube-wells.

There are over 36,000 deep tube-wells, nearly 1.4 million shallow ones, and over 1.6 million hydraulic machines of the state and the private sector.  

Farmers typically cultivate 8.4 million hectares of land, that includes 4.7 million hectares for the Boro (season for rice crop) variety, 1.1 million hectares for Aus (season for rice crop), 5.5 million hectares for Aman (season for rice crop), and the rest for wheat cultivation.

Farmers produce 19.5 million metric tons of rice a year - which means billions of liters of water are wasted every year.

According to a survey conducted by BADC recently, farmers draw only 25% water from the surface to meet their cultivation needs, and 75%  is groundwater pumped by tube-wells. 

In 1960-70 it was virtually the opposite: only 20% was groundwater and 80% was surface water.

“The agriculture department is going to implement an initiative to reduce groundwater use by 60% within 2030. If farmers keep misusing water, the water table  will go down further. So, we’ve to raise their awareness with campaigns in the field, to cut the use of water in cultivation,” Nasiruzzaman said. 

With a view to reducing the misuse of water in agriculture, the Agriculture Department has defined five ways, according to the secretary: Quality Dry and Quite (AWD), which will help check for water in the soil beneath the plants; setting up a prepaid system at every deep tube-well; setting up pipelines 3 feet below the surface; the ‘dream irrigation method’ in which water is applied to  the roots of a plant (only applicable for some fruit varieties); and sprinkler irrigation for flower gardens that deliver water from above. 

Farmers know nothing about misuse of water, which is why they use more water than they need.

The misuse of water causes financial loss as well as the underground water table goes down day by day.

Farmers and deep tube-well owners will be made aware of the waste they are causing through campaigns, the minister added.  

Chief Engineer of Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation, Lutfor Rahman, said for every 100 litres water, farmers use 35% for required irrigation and misuse the remaining 65%. 

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