UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Ram Fishman, George Washington University

Groundwater Depletion, Adaptation and Migration: Evidence from Gujarat, India

Date and Location

Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 4:10 PM - 5:40 PM
ARE Conference Room, 2102 Social Sciences and Humanities


Increasing water scarcity is expected to impact food production and the livelihoods of millions of farmers in semi arid developing countries over the next decades. Multiple studies project that this and other environmental changes will displace tens of millions of `environmental migrants'. However, such claims are hard to assess because of the lack of rigorous empirical evidence on farmers' adaptive responses. In this paper, we exploit plausibly exogenous variation in localized hydro-geological conditions in northern Gujarat, one of the most groundwater-scarce regions of India, to study the impacts of the gradual depletion of this vital resource. We find that more severe scarcity results in the shrinking of agriculture and increased migration rates by young males, but only those from the dominant land-owning caste (we find weaker evidence for labor shifts away from agriculture within villages). We do not find any evidence that scarcity leads to higher investments in human capital, however, or in improved water use eciency, despite the large technical potential for doing so. Given the widespread and ongoing depletion of groundwater across India and other parts of the world, the results are a cause of concern for the sustainability of irrigated agriculture and food security in these countries.

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