Maharashtra Farmers May Soon Need Permission For Growing Water Guzzling Crops Like Sugarcane, BananaMaharashtra farmers cultivating sugarcane (Satish Bate/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Farmers in Maharashtra, especially those cultivating crops like sugarcane and banana, may soon require permission from the authorities for the purposes of planting the crops in areas deemed to be water stressed, Indian Express has reported.

The Devendra Fadnavis government has invited comments in respect of the draft Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Rules, 2018 which provides that any farmer intending to cultivate ‘water intensive’ crops would have to make an application to a Watershed Water Resources Committee (WWRC) one month prior to sowing the concerned crop.

It is proposed that the WWRC which consists of elected local representatives, Block Development Officer and officials from the water supply and sanitation, agriculture and animal husbandry departments would also consult the senior district geologist of the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency (GSDA) before taking a decision on whether permission be granted for cultivating the concerned crops. The decision of the WWRC would have to be conveyed in writing and within thirty days from the date of application.

Concerns though remain with respect to the new rules as there is ambiguity over the determination of which areas would qualify as water stressed and which crops would potentially be covered under the head of water-intensive crops. GSDA officials are reported to have said that banana and sugarcane would come under the ambit of crops requiring permission and watershed areas would qualify under the “notified areas” where prior permission for cropping would be necessary.

With sugarcane and banana being important commercial crops cultivated in Maharashtra, the enactment of these rules might have implications for the agricultural economy of the State with possible wider political ramifications.

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