EQUITY ISSUES IN GROUNDWATER DEVELOPMENT : AN INSTITUTIONAL ANALYSIS OF FAILED WELLS IN KARNATAKA
The economic returns to groundwater irrigation motivated tremendous growth in the use of groundwater since 1970s. This development was actively supported through soft loans from institutional finance, free electrical power to lift groundwater, some provisions of the land reforms act, institutional finance and refinance to groundwater dependent enterprises and the overall demonstration effect. In some areas, this development has resulted in cumulative well interference leading to reduction in water availability due to competitive race for groundwater gradually abandoning using their wells. Apart from this abandonment (or well failure) during operational stage, the failure of wells is also increasing at the installation (or the construction) stage itself.
In Karnataka, about 50 per cent of the wells are owned by small and marginal farmers. The analysis of such abandoned and failed wells would be necessary to estimate the societal loss in real investment of both equity and borrowed capital, the economic impact on different classes of farmers in different situations of cropping pattern, revenues from marketing groundwater, the structural adjustments on different classes of farmers and the probability of the success of a well. This study is a modest attempt to locate which type of farmers, crop patterns and locations contribute to well failure for policy implications on abandoned and failed wells. The need for a separate study of failed and abandoned wells was suggested in the Ford Foundation sponsored workshop on " Groundwater policy and management in hardrock areas " held at TamilNadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, in October 1989. Though a few studies related to failed dug wells are available, studies on failed borewells in hard rock areas are not available.
A study on expost evaluation of dug well investments in hard rock areas of Karnataka, dealt with a few case studies of failed dug wells Deshpande, Chandrakanth and Chandrashekar, 1984). In a case that of a small farmer who had borrowed funds from the Primary Land Development Bank, her economic position would be have been better, had she not borrowed for the dug well which failed. The procedure for establishing failed well was complicated and it took sufficient time to get failed well subsidy on the loan amount. The transaction cost of declaration of a failed well was high in terms of number of trips to be made to the concerned offices and the time involved in administrative procedures.
Boring inside the dug wells was a profitable venture in a hard rock watershed area providing an IRR of 32.5 %. However about 58 per cent of the farmers were not successful in obtaining adequate water from in ‑bores. For farmers who planned to drill, the value of information on availability of groundwater though the electro‑sensitivity sounding method was more than its cost. But yet the method was not adopted by them (Engelhardt, 1985).
Swaminathan and Kandasamy (1989) studied the impact of groundwater over‑draft on different classes of farmers in an overexploited block (Avinashi taluk) and in a taluk where there was large scale financing for wells (Perianaickenpalyam taluk) in Coimbatore district, Tamilnadu. A majority of the marginal and small farmers jointly owned the wells in the area. and The impact was (1) the wells of marginal farmers were deeper than that of small farmers, (2) all the classes of farmers spent more money on deepening existing wells compared with costs of initial digging (for instance the cost of deepening formed 134 per cent of the cost of initial sinking of wells of Marginal farmers in Avinashi taluk) (3) farmers left 50 per cent of their cultivable area fallow as they were not getting adequate water, nevertheless growing high water crops like sugarcane, turmeric and cotton realizing higher net returns from intensive farming.
A recent study by NABARD, Bangalore regional office (1990) on borewell financing indicated that about 7 per cent of the borewells financed were abandoned as they had poor discharge or were not utilized fully. The banks finance the borrowers only if the borewell drilled have a yield of at least 2 liters per second. It may hence be even difficult to obtain the list of farmers who have abandoned their wells or whose wells failed.
Clients for the study
PROBLEM FROM THE CLIENT PERSPECTIVE
Motivation for private profits, increased density of irrigation wells, reduction in the rainfall and the number of rainy days have all contributed to well failure.
Information gaps and consequent value of new or improved (research) information.
The impact on well failure differs in relation to when it fails (at the time of installation or during operation stage). This further has differential impact on the class of farmers depending upon their ability to bear the risks and face contingencies. The perception of the causes of well failure according to farmers may be different from that of the hydrogeologists for instance. These perceptions are useful in convincing farmers and policy makers about the need for an efficient groundwater management policy including irrigation efficient device, power tariff and insurance policies. In addition it is necessary for policy makers to know the differential impacts of well failure on classes of farmers and classes of crops for policies on crop substitutions and the role of relative prices in effecting changes in crop patterns.
The study considers failed and abandoned bore wells. In addition, a few case studies of failed dug wells and failed dug‑cum‑bore wells will be made. Hence the sample is purposive. Since the definition of failed wells differs according to the client, the field definition of failed well as perceived by the farmer will be considered for self‑financed and non‑institutional financed wells, while the definition of NABARD (that a failed well is one which yields below 2 liters per second) will be considered for the NABARD refinanced and wells financed by other institutional sources. A random sample of 30 small farmers (below 5 acres) and 30 large farmers (above 5 acres) will be drawn from one white, one grey and one dark taluk (as defined by the Karnataka State Department of Mines and Geology) since the NABARD refinance is limited to white and grey blocks only. The dark block is chosen to examine, whether the macro level declaration of areas as white, grey or dark gets reflected in greater well failures at the micro level also.
The researchable questions
(I). Whose well failed first in the area under question?
(II). Where the irrigation wells are failing? with what intensity / probability? (based on post stratification)
(III) When did the well fail?
(IV). Which type/s of well are failing ? (through group interviews)
(I) Identification of the causes of well failure
(II) Exploring the institutional arrangements adopted by failed well owners (if any) in order to meet the situation they are facing
(III) Examine how market for:
(IV) Explore the measures adopted by failed well owners (if any) in order to meet the situation they are facing
(V) Are the water sellers tending to become water lords? (by exploiting buyers by charging high prices ? is there any correlation between higher the sale of water higher the well failure, because of greater exploitation?)
(VI). How much of capital is being invested in exploring of groundwater (data from borewell drillers association if any) ? data from local water diviners, geologists, Karnataka State Agro Industries Corporation Variables and sources of variation