Sustainability of solar-based irrigation in India: key determinants, challenges and solutions

In India, only 46 per cent of the cultivated land is irrigated. With more than 19 million agriculture electricity connections, irrigation accounts for more than a fifth of the country’s total power sales. Further, on account of unavailability of electricity connection or inadequacy of power supply, more than 9 million diesel pumps are also being used for irrigation, which are expensive to run as well as hazardous to human health and the environment. Millions of farmers continue to lack access to irrigation, particularly in the eastern region of the country, where farming is predominantly rain dependent. Provision of affordable and sustainable irrigation services, is becoming a pressing concern in India and elsewhere. In this backdrop, solar pumps or solar powered irrigation systems (SPIS) are emerging as an alternative to conventional irrigation solutions such as electricity or diesel powered pumps.

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