Solar for Irrigation: Using a Decision Support Tool to Guide Action in Uttar Pradesh
CEEW, with support from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) organised a State Workshop on 23 May in Lucknow to introduce the Solar Pumps Tool to stakeholders in Uttar Pradesh.
At the workshop, The Council introduced the tool, and solicited participants’ feedback on its utility to support evidence-based decision-making. Findings about the suitability of districts across Uttar Pradesh for solar-based irrigation, as derived from the portal were also shared at the workshop.
As the central government plans to revamp its solar pumps programme through the upcoming scheme, Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM), the workshop was also a useful forum for various stakeholders to convene and learn from each others’ perspectives.
• Private ownership of solar pumps has limited suitability in Uttar Pradesh since the overall crop revenue per holding is low and groundwater availability is below the safe limit. Greater support — through subsidies and credit – should be provided to farmers to enable them to adopt solar pumps. Water conservation and efficient irrigation practices (such as drip irrigation) should be promoted to improve the viability of solar pumps.
• Solarisation of feeders ensures a rapid and cost-effective transition to solar-based irrigation. 40 out of the 71 districts in Uttar Pradesh are not suitable for solarisation of feeders due to a low extent of feeder segregation, with the low penetration of electric pumps being an additional reason in some districts.
• The water-as-a-service model has potential to improve irrigation equity as it avoids a prohibitively high upfront cost of the technology for small and marginal farmers. About 80 per cent of farmers in our survey expressed willingness to buy water from a solar entrepreneur at a competitive rate. A solar pump entrepreneur can undercut the prevailing diesel-based water tariffs as per another recent CEEW study.
• Uttar Pradesh, with its high concentration of small and marginal farmers, and relatively high disbursement of long-term bank loans, provides an opportunity to increase farmers’ incomes by incentivising them to invest in farm technologies such as solar pumps.
• Western UP: 12 out of 14 districts (86 per cent) in the region have groundwater below the safe limit, necessitating a cautious approach in deploying solar pumps in the region.
• Central UP (Awadh): Seven out of 20 districts (35 per cent) show immense potential for deploying individually-owned off-grid solar pumps. Small and marginal farmers in the region should be incentivised to grow horticulture crops (based on the agro-economic suitability of the region) to improve their revenue. This in turn will make small-sized pumps viable, and improve their capacity utilisation.
• Bundelkhand: This area shows significant diversity in spite of being comparatively small, indicating a need to make district-specific decisions.
• Eastern UP (Purvanchal): 16 out of 26 districts of the region indicate suitability for solarisation of feeders. Low crop revenue in the region is a major barrier to scaling up the adoption of privately-owned solar pumps. In this region, which is highly vulnerable to climate change risks, horticulture crops should be promoted to increase farmers’ income as well as their resilience against changing climate, and to improve the viability of small capacity solar pumps (1 HP & sub-HP).