Food Security

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 539–556 | Cite as

The food security challenge of the food-land-water nexus in India

  • M. Dinesh Kumar
  • M. V. K. Sivamohan
  • A. Narayanamoorthy
Original Paper


Two of the key factors that drive agricultural growth and food production in India are access to arable land and utilizable water resources. These are examined with particular reference to their regional variation in order to make an assessment of the magnitude of the food security challenge they pose for the country. Recent official estimates of groundwater exploitation in India are compared with actual negative physical, social and economic consequences of over-exploitation, as are evident in different regions, and their implications for national food security discussed. The analyses show that the real food security and water management challenge lies in the mismatch between water availability and agricultural water demand: high demands occur in water scarce but agriculturally prosperous regions and low demands in naturally water-abundant but agriculturally backward regions. Serious groundwater depletion problems, which occur in the naturally water-scarce but surplus food-producing regions, magnify the challenge. The small area of arable land per capita is a major reason for low agricultural water demand in regions that have abundant water. Sustainability of well irrigation in the naturally water-scarce regions, which is the backbone of India’s food security, could be achieved through judicious investment in surface water projects which encourage direct irrigation and replenishment of over-exploited aquifers. Other strategies include: pro rata pricing of electricity in the farm sector; volumetric pricing of water from public irrigation systems; improving the efficiency of utilization of green water or the rainwater held in the soil profile; preventing depletion of the residual soil moisture in the field after crop harvest by reducing the fallow period; and reducing the use of water through a shift to low water consuming crops


Food security Per capita food grain availability Groundwater over-exploitation Per capita arable land Effective renewable water resources Land and water nexus 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. & International Society for Plant Pathology 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. Dinesh Kumar
    • 1
  • M. V. K. Sivamohan
    • 1
  • A. Narayanamoorthy
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute for Resource Analysis and Policy (IRAP)HyderabadIndia
  2. 2.Department of Economics and Rural DevelopmentAlagappa UniversityKaraikudiIndia

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