Climate variability and water resource scarcity in drylands of Rajasthan, India
© Kumar and Singh; licensee Springer. 2015
Received: 13 October 2014
Accepted: 24 February 2015
Published: 13 March 2015
The world is experiencing a high climatic variability and has its impact on all ecosystems, regions and sectors, but the nature and extent of vulnerability to climate change differs with adaptive capacity of individual, society and region. The regions which are scarce on resources are among the very vulnerable systems of the earth and most of such regions have existing extreme climatic conditions like deserts and snow covered areas. The vulnerability of arid regions is further accentuated by low levels of socio-economic development, and this is the case with arid regions of India, which leads to fast depletion of water resources.
The study analyses the climate variability over last 35 years (1973–2008) in the Western drylands of Rajasthan and the results show that the temperature has shown a great variability with an average rise of about 0.5°C for the month of June. The maximum rise is visible during 1995–2000. The scarcity of water resource accompanied by variability creates water stress conditions in the region and is responsible for droughts. During last 35 years (1973–2008) the average annual rainfall has shown a decrease of 50 mm. With an overall rise in temperature over the region and changing precipitation trends the humidity provinces as defined by Thornthwaite have shifted eastward.
The climate variability has direct impact on the water resources of the region. The low to medium rainfall in most parts, high evapo-transpiration demands for water, high frequency of occurrence of droughts resulting from the departure of rainfall from mean values, and the high per capita arable land increases the demand for irrigation water. The free power in agriculture continued for many years, and the existing pump horse power based pricing of electricity encourage over-pumping and inefficient and often wasteful use of groundwater. The advent of Indira Gandhi Canal in the fragile desert ecosystems helps the region to cope with high variability in rainfall. The study suggests that water security in the region can be attained through expansion of canal network.
Account of withdrawal and recharge of groundwater in western Rajathan
A. Gross groundwater recharge
2. Domestic and Industrial
B. Gross Draft (1 + 2)
Groundwater balance (A-B)
Stage of groundwater development (%)
Status of groundwater in the western Rajathan
Block (area unit)
Whatever might be the nature of climate change that bounds to occur in a region, the outcome would be large scale displacement of normal human activity. And, now the climate is changing due to human actions. Despite efforts to abate the human causes, human-driven climate change will continue for decades and longer (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC 2001). Global climate change, which has already impacted natural resource systems across the Earth, is adding to the pressures and is expected to substantially disrupt many of these systems and the goods and services that they provide (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Therefore, only climate change mitigation steps are not enough; there is an immediate need to strengthen the adaptive capacity of people and regions. Therefore in lieu of these issues the present study attempts to analyse the status and vulnerability of water resources in the western drylands of Rajasthan in context of climate variability over past 35 years (1973–2008).
Research data and methodology
The secondary data sources include historical climate data of 35 years from 1973 to 2008 of WMO standard in respect of rainfall, maximum temperature, minimum temperature and rainy days from India Meteorological Department (IMD). The temporal and spatial analysis of data has been done by using Moving average (Seven years). This tool is used to find out the trend of temperature and rainfall variation over the years. Thornthwaite and Mather Moisture index (1955) is useful in division of climate of a year into various types. The comparison of moisture indices of each month of this year with previous years is helpful in determining changes in climate for particular months in a year. Maps are used to determine the spatio-temporal change in temperature and precipitation. Arc GIS 10.0, Erdas 9.2 and Arc View 3.2 software were used for this purpose.
Thornthwaite’s moisture index and climate classification
Land use map is based on AWiFS sensor data taken from National Remote Sensing Agency. Secondary data pertaining to land use and cropping pattern has been collected from Directorate of Agriculture, Rajasthan and using the Weaver’s method, crop diversification and combination regions have been identified. The two time data related to crop area and production has been compared and results have been analysed. Data related to water resources have been taken from Water Resource Department, Government of Rajasthan and have been analysed using different statistical methods.
Results and discussion
Change in humidity provinces
Consolidated fissured formations of sandstone and shale with low yield are found in Nagaur and Jodhpur districts, and that with moderate yield potential are found in other parts of Nagaur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer districts. Consolidated limestone and dolomite formations in small patches are found in Nagaur, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer districts. Consolidated fissured formations of meta-sedimentary and meta- volcanic origin with low yield potential (1–5 lps) are found in the southern parts extending up to the central eastern part of region. They cover parts of Jalore district. Consolidated fissured sedimentary formations with low yield potential are found in parts of Jalore (Ozha and Sharma, 2011).
Rajasthan stands first in terms of degree and extent of over-exploitation of groundwater resources in the country. One reason for this phenomenon is the absence of sufficient number of large-scale surface irrigation facilities, well-spread geographically. The low to medium rainfall in most parts, high evapo-transpiration demands for water, high frequency of occurrence of droughts resulting from the departure of rainfall from mean values, and the high per capita arable land increases the demand for irrigation water. This is being met through mining of groundwater resources. The free power in agriculture continued for many years, and the existing pump horse power based pricing of electricity encourage over-pumping and inefficient and often wasteful use of groundwater.
Overall, the estimated groundwater resources in Western Rajasthan are limited due to deep aquifers and low recharge. Based on the ratio of annual pumping to annual recharge, the stages of groundwater development have been categorized as safe (<70 per cent), semi-critical (70–90 per cent), critical (90–100 per cent) or overexploited (per cent 100 %) (Rathore, 2005; Narain et al., 2005). The groundwater is overexploited in Barmer, Jalore, Jhunjhunu, Jodhpur, Nagaur, and Sikar districts.
The advent of Indira Gandhi Canal in the northern parts of arid region of Rajasthan has led to immense change in the land use pattern of the region. The once barren land has been now converted into highly productive green belt (Figure 10). Such initiatives in the fragile desert ecosystems help the region to cope with high variability in rainfall. The scenario of land use had markedly changed during the years due to the canal irrigation. Satellite-based mapping has revealed that in arid western Rajasthan irrigated and double-cropped area has significantly increased and at the same time, the area under fallow land has declined. More area under groundwater irrigation with high inputs is coming under cash crops like groundnut, cotton, mustard, cumin and chillies. All these factors have added to the process of land degradation and has also increased the water demand in the region. It is important to note that area under cultivable wasteland, pastures and trees, fallow land and land not available for cultivation have declined by 24.07 per cent, 13.15 per cent and 8.55 per cent respectively in the western region. This trend of gradual decrease shows that the area that was earlier under open grazing for indigenous cows and other draught animals is shrinking rapidly, placing the traditional livelihood options under threat. With advent of canal irrigation the farmers prefer commercial and food crops rather than fodder crops. During 1960’s there was dominance of pastures, grazing lands and areas of fodder crops. There is a decreasing trend of food grain crops in the region. Crop diversification has increased in present for both the cropping seasons as compared to 1960. One of the main driving forces behind crop diversification is availability of water through various sources viz. canal and tube wells. The area under fodder crops was 56 per cent in 1951, has reduced to 47 per cent in 1992–93 and about 36 per cent in 2003–04. The area under oil seeds cultivation increased from 6.2 per cent in 1951 to 21.4 per cent in 2003–04.
Besides all the physical factors, poor socio-economic conditions also accentuate the vulnerability. The region has highest population density (84 persons per sq km) among all arid regions of the world. The state of Rajasthan ranks low on development and literacy among the other states of India. The variability in population distribution also hampers the uniform planning, as according to the 2001 Census, Jaisalmer district, located on the western border, had a population of about half a million, accounting for about 2 per cent of total population of the region and more than 15 per cent of its area. On the other hand, Jhunjhunu district accounted for around 9 per cent of the state’s population, but less than 1 per cent of its area. Therefore in order to attain sustainability and water security socio-economic conditions also need to be taken into consideration.
The climate over Western Rajasthan is showing definite signs of change, with decrease in rainfall and increase in temperature and aridity. The arid climate belt has shifted eastward, intensifying the process of land degradation and causing desertification. The water resources are scarce, adding to vulnerability of region towards climate change. But in last few decades there has been tremendous development of various water sources by government in the region and due to these efforts the north-western part of region has attained good agriculture production and yield. The development of canal irrigation in some parts has intensified the process of land degradation in form of salinization and alkalization, which need to be managed at priority basis in order to maximize the profit from canal. The land use pattern in the region has also changed with development of water resources. Farmers are now opting for crop diversification and commercial crops like mustard. The decrease in rainfed crops like gram can be attributed to high variability of rainfall. The central part of the region is more dependent on rainfall for agriculture which makes it highly susceptible towards impact of climate change. There is a need to develop more extensive network of canals and water harvesting structures together with diversifying the source of livelihood.
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