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A farmhand wades through a rice field that has been flooded in the Karnal district of Haryana, on June 26.

A farmhand wades through a rice field that has been flooded in the Karnal district of Haryana, on June 26.

Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg

India's Water Crisis Is Becoming a Problem for Modi

India’s 1.3 billion people only have access to about 4% of the world’s water. As global temperatures rise, the threat to lives and businesses is projected to grow.

On a scorching summer day in northern India, Ajay Singh sat next to his water pump and scanned his 10 acres of farmland. He once used to grow rice each season to bring in about 150,000 rupees ($2,000) a year, well above the average income in the world’s second-most populous country.

Now on six acres he’s cultivating pearl millet, cow peas, bottle gourd and corn — crops that consume about 80% less water than rice, and also use less labor, fertilizer and electricity. While a water conservation program pays him 7,000 ($93) rupees per acre to plant them, it’s still a gamble: Unlike rice, which the government always buys at a set price, these crops have no guaranteed market.