Drought-prone districts to breathe sigh of relief thanks to Usharmukti
Kolkata: Panchayats and the Rural Development department have taken up a unique scheme — Usharmukti, to provide adequate water for irrigation and increase the level of underground water in six districts with acute water scarcity.
These districts are Jhargram, Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum, West Midnapore and East Burdwan.
The name Usharmukti has been adopted from Bankura district, where several steps have been taken to provide more water for irrigation and improve the health of several rivers. At Onda, efforts have been made to improve the health of Birai river along with Amodar and Gandeshwari. In Hirabandh and Ranibandh under Khatra sub-division, floriculture has been practiced with great success.
The six districts where Usharmukti will be applicable, include 55 blocks, 472 gram panchayats and more than 2,000 water sheds. The total area under the project will be around 14 lakh hectares.
The project has been taken up, as agriculture in these six districts is badly affected every summer due to severe drought. To make the project a success, the layer of underground water will be raised and the health of several rivers will be improved. A comprehensive watershed management has been taken up to convert barren land into fertile and make single-crop land into multi-crop ones.
An MoU has been inked between Panchayats, Rural Development department and Bharat Rural Livelihood Foundation (BRLF), as per which six NGOs will work hand-in-hand and make schemes for water shed management.
The work will be carried out under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme. If successful, the project will change the agricultural scenario in these six drought-prone districts.
BRLF provides training to the people engaged in various projects, prepares schemes and evaluates them.
It may be recalled that in the past, these drought-prone districts were good in agriculture and the rivers were navigable. There were forests and maritime trade was carried out. The trees were full of flowers and fruits and the forests provided a safe haven for birds and animals. But large-scale deforestation has made these districts drought-prone, with acute scarcity of drinking water during summer.
Senior officials of panchayats and Rural Development department hoped that Usharmukti will bring a major change in these districts, making the land fertile, where beside agriculture, floriculture will also be practiced along with fish cultivation in the rivers that will be rejuvenated.