Institute for Social and Economic Change
Working Paper: 431
Impact of Irrigating with Arsenic Contaminated Water
on Farmers’ Incomes in West Bengal
Madhavi Marwah Malhotra
With high arsenic contamination of groundwater in West Bengal much beyond permissible limits for irrigation water, and institutional measures aimed at enhancing groundwater pumping to meet the growing food requirements in the country, the long-run sustainability of agricultural production and farmers’ livelihoods in arsenic affected areas are under threat. This study undertakes a comparison of the net incomes of farmers earned from crop production between arsenic affected and non- arsenic affected areas’ agricultural situation. To analyse the differences in the agricultural situation in detail, the non-parametric Mann-Whitney U test for comparing two samples is used. In conclusion, the study finds evidence that farmers using arsenic contaminated water for irrigation for over two decades in West Bengal are now facing triple impoverishment on account of having to adopt a less profitable cropping pattern, lower yield of crops and higher input costs per unit of cultivated land area.