Can cap-and-trade be a regulatory option to address groundwater depletion and irrigation crises in India? Reflections, issues & options

Chaudhuri, Sriroop, Roy, Mimi and Suresh, Madhumita (2023) Can cap-and-trade be a regulatory option to address groundwater depletion and irrigation crises in India? Reflections, issues & options. Environmental Management. ISSN 1432-1009 (In Press)

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India is a global hotspot for irrigation-induced groundwater withdrawal, leading to widespread lowering of water levels, in turn resulting in disproportionate access to irrigation supplies among farming communities. Efforts to mitigate the situation, however, have fallen short, largely due to technocentric vision (e.g. microirrigation adoption) of the regulatory authorities (RAs), which does little to integrate the vast groundwater-dependent socioecologies with the decision making system. In view of that, we invite the RAs to deliberate upon a cap-and-trade mechanism that proposes to mobilize the farmers at every aspect of planning and execution, while to tackling multiple challenges simultaneously: (a) restrict groundwater pumping to a pre-defined safe level (cap), (b) creating a shared space/quotas for all to pump (allocation); and (c) making provisions for trade of allocations. The latter further augments farmers’ access to groundwater (and irrigation). Using a systematic bibliometric analysis of relevant world literature and contextual appraisal of groundwater-irrigation landscape in India, we develop a conceptual framework of cap-and-trade in three parts. In the first Pre-implementation stage, we emphasize a reality check study to assess ground conditions, if favorable for a cap-and-trade approach (existing social, economic, institutional circumstances). Next, in the Implementation stage, (1) we recommend an integrated hydrogeological-hydrometeorological modeling to determine flexible capping arrangements, with the possibility of delineating certain priority regions (coastal ecosystems); (2) for allocations, a reasonable fraction of the cap over a defined period; we envision a thoroughly participatory arrangement, centering on four action areas: identifying, informing, consulting, and involving the farmers, alongside all stakeholders engaged in the groundwater-irrigation decision making; (3) for trade, we urge the RAs to create win-win situations for both the sellers and buyers; develop the transaction protocols on certain foundational principles (e.g. simplicity, transparency and consistency); strengthening of local institutions, and development of targeted financial support schemes. We consider the third part of the narrative, Post-implementation stage, as a real game changer, comprising of a monitoring, auditing (performance benchmarking) component coupled with multitiered outreach-mentoring drives that demonstrate to the farmers the benefits of becoming part of the cap-and-trade program. Overall, a main motivation to present this research is to shatter the age-old socio-cognitive beliefs/taboos around groundwater pumping (My land, My Water), breaking the hegemony of the water sellers (rich/wealthy large landholder clans), to potentially, create a social norm whereby the farmers realize the value of restricting groundwater pumping and sharing for mutual prosperity

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Groundwater pumping | Irrigation scarcity | Cap-and-trade Geohydrological modeling | Participatory framework | Youth engagement
Subjects: Physical, Life and Health Sciences > Environmental Science, Policy and Law
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Social Sciences (General)
JGU School/Centre: Jindal School of Liberal Arts & Humanities
Depositing User: Subhajit Bhattacharjee
Date Deposited: 14 Nov 2023 17:34
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2023 19:18
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