Adapting or Chasing Water? Crop Choice and Farmers' Responses to Water Stress in Peri‐Urban Bangalore

Farmers ignore long-term consequences and continue to exploit ground water in peri-urban Bangalore.

Body: Unregulated groundwater extraction has led to declining groundwater tables and increasing water scarcity in the Indian subcontinent. Understanding how farmers respond to this scarcity is important from multiple perspectives—equity in access, livelihood security and resource sustainability. This study presents a case from the rapidly urbanizing Arkavathy sub‐basin near Bangalore city in southern India where irrigation is fully groundwater dependent. Using cross‐sectional data from a stratified random sample of 333 farmers from 15 villages, this study investigated the factors that determine farmer crops choices under conditions of water scarcity and urbanization.

Binary logit analysis showed that farmers with a large landholding responded by tapping deep groundwater using borewells. Multinomial logit analysis revealed that access to groundwater, variation in the proximity to the product market (city) and labour availability influenced crop choice decisions. The study observed that current responses indicated chasing strategies as characterized in the literature. This strategy largely favoured well‐off farmers and hence were inequitable.

The study found that while the choice of water‐intensive crops and unregulated pumping has aggravated water stress, the uptake of water‐saving technologies among irrigated farmers has been low, showing that resource sustainability may not be a concern where non‐farm diversification opportunities exist.

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