Irrigation scheme: A game-changer
Even though the country is witnessing a paradigm shift in areas of technology, manufacturing, research and development, etc., the agriculture sector is still surviving on the mercy of rain gods in most regions of the country. More than half of Indian <g data-gr-id="80">farm land</g> (55 per cent) are deprived of irrigation and farmers continue to depend on June to September south-west monsoon for Kharif crops like paddy, pulses, <g data-gr-id="81">oil seeds</g>, and cotton. To make matters worse, lack of government support, climatic vagaries, abject poverty of farmers, and low awareness about best farming practices, all create fatal distress and despondency ultimately leading to farmer suicides.
Notably, for farmers, agriculture for long has been an unduly monsoonal phenomenon – a vicious cycle of waiting for the rains for the harvest and then an endless struggle for a fair price of their produce due to rigid market practices that controls their produce in 585 different mandis across the country.
Taking a note of non-availability of irrigation resources plaguing Indian agriculture, Narendra <g data-gr-id="60">Modi-led</g> NDA government recently launched Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), with a layout of Rs 50,000 crore in five years starting with a layout of Rs 5,300 crore for 2015-16. According to Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, the five-year flagship irrigation scheme is aimed at ensuring access to irrigation to every farm (<g data-gr-id="63">har</g> <g data-gr-id="61">khet</g> ko <g data-gr-id="62">pani</g>).
The scheme is to propel proper cultivation of all <g data-gr-id="73">farm lands</g> in the country with the objective to get more crop per drop. The irrigation scheme, which is a pet project of PM Modi will open window of opportunity by utilising the rainfall water in scientific way as at present only about 20 <g data-gr-id="74">per cent</g> of <g data-gr-id="75">rain water</g> is utilised for agricultural purposes. Singh told Millennium Post that 10 per cent increase in irrigation efficiency can bring additional 14 million <g data-gr-id="66">hectare</g> under assured irrigation as 202 billion cubic metre of <g data-gr-id="76">ground water</g> potential is still to be tapped.
The PMKSY aims at <g data-gr-id="92">amalgamation</g> of ongoing schemes viz. Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) of Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Rural Development and <g data-gr-id="94">On Farm</g> Water Management (OFWM) component of National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) of Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC). The central assistance will be based on utilising by the state governments in different years in the coming five years. If required, <g data-gr-id="87">total</g> allocation for this scheme will be enhanced to meet the requirement of the <g data-gr-id="89">states,</g> so that <g data-gr-id="88">objective</g> of providing <g data-gr-id="97">har</g> <g data-gr-id="95">khet</g> ko <g data-gr-id="96">pani</g> and more crop per drop could be achieved.
The major objectives of PMKSY is to achieve convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level, expand cultivable area under assured irrigation, improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage of water, enhance the adoption of <g data-gr-id="93">precision-irrigation</g> and other water saving technologies (more crop per drop), enhance recharge of aquifers and introduce sustainable water conservation practices by exploring the feasibility of reusing treated municipal waste water for peri-urban agriculture and attract greater private investment in precision irrigation system.
The scheme will help in streamlining irrigation of agricultural lands in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, and Bihar. The major beneficiary states will be Uttarakhand, Assam, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, <g data-gr-id="52">Jharkahnd</g>, Odisha, and West Bengal, where only 25 <g data-gr-id="53">per cent</g> of agricultural land is irrigated. Notably, at present 142 million hectares of land are used for cultivation, of which only 45 per cent farm land is under irrigation.
The scheme also aims at bringing Ministries, Departments, agencies, research and financial institutions engaged in creation/recycling/potential recycling of water under a common platform so that a comprehensive and holistic view of the entire “water cycle” is taken into account and proper water budgeting is done for all sectors, the Minister of Agriculture told Millennium Post.
The programme also aims at bringing the Ministries, Departments, agencies, research and financial institutions concerned and engaged in the creation/use/recycling/potential recycling of water, to a common platform so that a comprehensive and holistic view of the entire “water cycle” is taken into account and proper water budgeting is done for all sectors - household, agriculture, and industries.
For achieving the goal of bringing irrigation to every farm, there is need to converge all ongoing efforts and to bridge the gaps through location specific interventions. In this regard, under the programme, the responsibilities of different Departments/agencies have been fixed. According to the PMKSY note, the <g data-gr-id="83">Monisrty</g> of Rural Development (<g data-gr-id="84">MoRD</g>) has been assigned to undertake water conservation, farm pond, water harvesting structure, small check dams and contour bunding, etc. under Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP). The Department of Land Reforms under <g data-gr-id="85">MoRD</g> has been allocated a sum of Rs 1,500 crore for the year 2015-16.
While, Ministry of Water Resources has been assigned to undertake various measures for completion of ongoing projects of Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), besides construction of diversion canals, field channels, water diversion/lift irrigation, including development of water distribution systems at an allocation of Rs 2,000 crore in the current financial year.
The Ministry of Agriculture has been assigned to undertake activities like rainwater conservation, runoff control structures, water harvesting structures, including measures to augment ground water. Besides, the Ministry will be promoting crop diversification and ensure crop water budgeting for more crop per drop target. For increasing farmers’ income, crop development, farm forestry, pasture development, and other livelihood support interventions would be carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture. The PMKSY also aims to improve water use efficiency and to assure irrigation to agricultural farm larger area under micro irrigation systems (drip, sprinkler, and rain gun) would be promoted. The Ministry has been allocated Rs 1,800 crore for <g data-gr-id="98">current</g> financial year for this purpose.
The writer is a Special Correspondent with Millennium Post