Farmers across the country are misusing some 800 liters of water in producing each kilogram of paddy. Even though it is possible to produce 1 kg of paddy using 2,500 liters of water, currently they are using 3,300 liters for the same only for lack of awareness of certain techniques that can 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 liters of water for producing one kg of paddy, and now that has come down to 3,300 liters.

"A farmer has to pay a fixed amount to deep tube-well (used as water source) owner 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.

The farmers irrigate their arable land from tube-wells installed by Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) and Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA), and private tube-wells. There are over 36,000 deep tube-wells, nearly 1.4 million shallow ones, and over 1.6 million hydraulic machines under the state and 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 is wasted every year.

According to a survey conducted by the BADC recently, farmers are using 75 percent of groundwater while 25 percent from surface. It was only 20 percent for groundwater while 80 percent from surface water in 1960-70.

"The agriculture department is going to implement an initiative to reduce the groundwater use by 60 percent within 2030. If farmers' misuse of water keeps rising, the layer of underground water will go down further. So, we've to make the farmers aware through awareness campaign from the field level, to reduce the use of water in their cultivation," Nasiruzzaman said.

With a view to reducing the misuse of water in agriculture, the Agriculture Department has defined 5 ways, according to the secretary: Quality Dry and Quite (AWD), which will help check for water in the soil beneath the plants; setting up prepaid system in every deep tube-well; setting up pipeline 3 feet below the surface; 'dream irrigation method' whereby water can only be applied at the roots of a plant (only applicable for some fruit varieties); and sprinkler irrigation for flower gardens that deliver water from above, he said.

Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said, "Plenty of water is being wasted in cultivation sector across the country every year. We've taken a number of projects to reduce the misuse of water."

Farmers have no idea about the misuse of water that is why they use more water than their needs. The misuse of water causes financial loss as well as the underground water level to go down day by day. Farmers and deep tube-well owners will be made aware of the waste they are causing through campaign, the minister added.

Chief Engineer of the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation Lutfor Rahman said from 100 liters water, farmers use 35 percent for required irrigation and misuse the rest 65 percent. At present, the amount of lifted water is 70 Billion Cubic Meters (BCM) for cultivation.

Of them, about 50 BCM water is lifted from underground and 20 BCM from surface whereas 32.50 percent water misuse from underground water and 13 percent from surface, the engineer informed.

Jahangir Alam, an agriculture economist, agreed that farmers across the country are misusing water as they have no idea about it.

The government should appoint agricultural engineers, agricultural economists and farm economists to create mass awareness through campaigns at the grassroots level, Alam added.

This report is produced by UNB United News of Bangladesh and IPS Inter Press Service.

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