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Asian Water : July August 2011
INTERVIEW 18 JUly/aUgUst 2011 Asian Water AW: Agriculture is said to take up the biggest share of the world’s water, with an average of 70% and going up to 90% in some develop- ing countries. Why do you think it is taking so long for farmers in the developing world to become more water-efficient? CC: In developing countries, many farmers are small holders who lack knowledge and the basic financial resources to increase their inputs such as fertiliser and pest and weed control. In rain-fed systems there is also a lot of risk associated with increasing inputs to capitalise on good rains, if those rains don’t materialise. Hence yields are often low. In irrigation systems if water is provided basically free there is little incentive to become more efficient. So, in a sense, we are in a vicious circle of low input, low output and low productivity and profitability. AW: What can be done by govern- ments, farmers and other players to reduce the share of agricultural water? CC: I think that this will happen not by strategic and planned govern- ment action, but by stealth. As cit- ies and industry demand a larger share of the available water and all the available water resources are utilised, this will be “taken” from agriculture. Similarly, reduced rainfall and runoff that may occur under cli- mate change scenarios is also likely to reduce supply. Then there has to be a response by all. Unfortu- nately, if a system of water rights is not entrenched in national and local policy, the poor often lose out as will the environment and all the ecosystem services it provides to us. If governments are serious about this threat, they need to have in place scientifically based alloca - tion policies, underpinned by a water rights system and ultimately they may have to allow a true value to be placed on water and allow it to be traded between users and sectors. This kind of system has also to be underpinned by information flow and capacity building that helps all users reduce demand and increase productivity. Helping farmers move from surface to drip Colin Chartres is Director General of International Water Management Institute, headquartered in Sri Lanka. Here, he shares his insights about improving the management of agricultural water with Sahana Singh, Editor of Asian Water. Water Rights Must be Entrenched in Public Policy Conserving wetlands has become important on both local and global scales. IWMI and the Central Environmental Authority of Sri Lanka mapped around 100 wetlands in Sri Lanka and these maps were incorporated into a National Wetlands Directory. This project had a dual purpose: to generate new knowledge and to build the capacity of team members.