Farmers in the dock in water-deficient India

NEW DELHI, March 8, 2010 (AFP) – India faces a water crisis with availability in decline and demand rocketing, and the profligate agricultural sector is in the firing line. Farmers’ wasteful use of water is unsustainable in a country with a fast-growing population and rapidly industrialising economy, says Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.

Agriculture “is going to face tough competitive demands from other sectors”, Bansal told a water management conference in New Delhi recently.

“To feed 17 percent of the world’s population we have only four percent of the world’s water resources,” he warned.

India’s overall annual water consumption is expected to almost double from 634 billion cubic metres (BCM) to 1,180 BCM by 2050, according to the Central Water Commission.

The ministry of water resources predicts per capita water availability by 2050 to be less than half 2001 levels.

The concerns coincide with new worries about India’s ability to feed itself as another failed monsoon hits crop yields.

Food prices are up about 18 percent over 12 months and swathes of parched earth in the countryside serve as a stark reminder of how water