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Water Potential

Water Potential

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Published by: rastogi parag on Feb 25, 2010
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02/25/2010

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FIGHTING AGAINST THE MONSOON-BY IRRIGATION WAYWater, as an input to agriculture, is critical for sustaining the food security. Indiafaces the daunting task of increasing its food grain production by over 50 percent in the next two decades. Increasing competition for water in agriculture,industry, domestic and environment uses is already manifested in inter- andintra-sector, basin, state, district and village level conflicts. These will escalate further as India's annual per capita water availability goesbelow water scarce threshold level of 1700 cubic meter within the next twodecades. In six of the country's 20 major river basins (with less than 1000 cubicmeter of annual per capita availability), water resources are under stress anddepleting. By the year 2025, five more basins will become water scarce and by2050, only three basins in India will remain water sufficient. Supply expansion,to meet expanding needs, is constrained by availability and rising economic andenvironmental costs associated with its development and use. The status of irrigation infrastructure and prospects for its sustainability, both physical andfinancial, for future water-food security is the issue under focus.Irrigation InfrastructureExisting statusIrrigation has traditionally helped Indian agriculture to grow. But, the last decadewitnessed a slowing down of increase in irrigation potential resulting in aslowdown of agriculture growth to a mere 2.6 per cent in 2006-07. Till March2007, the anticipated irrigation potential created was of about 102.77 millionhectares but the utilisation was only for 87.23 million hectares. This meant thatstill over 30 per cent of India’s agriculture land is dependent on rainwater forcrop survival. Himanshu Thakkar of South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers andPeople, says the government’s irrigation policy has failed with growth rate of irrigated land falling from 4.23 per cent in 1970s to less than 1.5 per cent in thefirst decade of this century despite spending about one lakh crore for the sectorin the 10th plan.Since 1950, India has made direct public investment of Rs 88100 crore inproviding major, medium and minor irrigation infrastructure with an irrigationpotential of 91 MHa. India Water Vision, 2025 estimated the gross water demandfor multiple uses to double in 25 years from now with corresponding investmentneeds of Rs 20000 crore per year. As of now, India's irrigation infrastructure isexpanding by 1.8 Mha of irrigation potential with a public outlay of Rs 7000 croreper annum. Current annual expansion is one-third less than the maximumgrowth achieved in the past. Deceleration in irrigation potential created throughmajor and medium schemes started during 1980s as a consequence of decliningreal government expenditure on this sector.Amidst competition from non-agricultural uses in households, industry andenvironment, supply of irrigation will have to keep pace with the targeted annualagricultural growth rate of over 4% in the Tenth Five Year Plan. To achieve thisgrowth rate, irrigation sector should grow by at least 5% per annum, given 1%growth in rainfed sector, Demand-supply management in water sector andefficiency in its every use is critical for providing sustainable water-food securityto the country.More importantly, existing and expanding irrigation infrastructure has to bephysically and financially sustained for improving their efficiency. Yet concerns
 
are emerging on the physical condition of the irrigation infrastructure created sofar.Vicious cycleIndia's irrigation sector is caught in a vicious cycle. Inadequate funding for O&Mover years has resulted in the neglect of maintenance and upkeep of theirrigation system leading to deterioration in the quality of irrigation service.Physically, the irrigation and drainage system is not able to receive and deliverthe planned quantity of water matching with the demand pattern. Poor irrigationservice, often not matching with the crop water requirements over space andtime, results in low productivity of crops and income to the irrigators. Resultantdissatisfaction coupled with weak institutional linkage leads to underassessment of demand for water rates as well as low recovery of whatever isassessed. Progressive fall in the cost recovery increases revenue deficit causingadverse impact on O&M funding for maintenance works.Vicious cycle of India's irrigationsectorDeferred maintenance of surfaceirrigation infrastructure over yearshas led to further deterioration of itsphysical service. This is witnessed bystagnating or falling irrigationcoverage affecting agriculturalgrowth in several regions. Surely,with future expansion in foodproduction growth criticallydepending on the performance of irrigation sector, what is happeningto the physical status of existing andexpanding irrigation infrastructuredoes not augur well for India's futurefood security and agricultureperformance. TargetsUnder the Irrigation Component of Bharat Nirman, the target of creation of additional irrigation potential of 1 crore hectare in 4 years (2005-06 to 2008-09)is planned to be met largely through expeditious completion of identifiedongoing major and medium irrigation projects. Irrigation potential of 42 lakhhectare is planned to be created by expeditiously completing such ongoingmajor and medium projects. There is a definite gap between irrigation potential created and the potentialutilized. Under Bharat Nirman it is planned to restore and utilize irrigationpotential of 10 lakh hectare through implementation of extension, renovationand modernization of schemes alongwith command area development andwater management practices. There are considerable areas in the country withunutilized ground water resources. Irrigation potential of 28 lakh hectare isplanned to be created through ground water development. The remaining target
 
for creation of irrigation potential of 10 lakh hectare is planned to be created byway of minor irrigation schemes using surface flow. 10 lakh hectare of irrigationpotential is also planned by way of repair, renovation and restoration of waterbodies and extension, renovation and modernization of minor irrigationschemes. But the targets met at the Oct 2008 last year are very discouraging,which puts down the figure to 29.783 thousand ha only.Assistance provided under AIBPA Central loan assistance of Rs 36,417 crore under the Accelerated IrrigationBenefit Programme (AIBP) has been provided for 267 major and mediumirrigation projects and 9,874 minor irrigation schemes since the introduction of the programme in 1996. According to the latest figures in April this year, thecountry had created an additional potential of 4,932 million hectares of landthrough major and medium irrigation projects and a potential of 271 millionhectares through surface minor irrigation schemes upto March 2008. Theprovision for the AIBP in the 2009-10 was Rs 8,700 crore with Rs 7,000 croreallocation coming from the Planning Commission. The total grants released for various AIBP schemes for 2008-09 was Rs 7,598crore. The AIBP was launched in 1996-97 for providing loan assistance to thestates for completing unfinished major and medium irrigation projects who werein advanced stage of completion and create additional irrigation potential in thecountry. Those who had received benefits included many north-eastern states,hilly states of Sikkim, Uttaranchal and Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradeshand the infamous drought districts of Orrisa -- Koraput-Bolangir and Kalahandi(KBK). The AIBP has now changed its guidelines to benefit drought prone tribalareas of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and projects in thestates where irrigation was below national average could be included with theGovernment funding 38 of the 65 major and medium irrigation projects in therelief package for agrarian distressed districts of these states.Budget and its implicationsIrrigation is sine qua non for agricultural growth but the Central Budget’s totalprovision for development of water resources is Rs 1003 crores only. About 40million hectares of land is unutilised in the country precisely because there is noproper conservation and management of the rain water. Total allocation for whatis known as National Programme for Comprehensive Land ResourcesManagement is Rs 360 crores only in the current year’s budget. If rain watercould be harvested large part of such land can be put to some productive use.Watershed development holds the key to development of such areas which isequally labour intensive. It may be noted that most of the so-called droughtprone area in the country has higher rainfall than Punjab or Haryana which arethe granaries of India. It is the inability to harness rainwater that explains lowproductivity in rainfed areas. But the budgetary outlay in the current year forwatershed development is a measly Rs 1773 crores only. The Budget papersmention that it will cost about Rs 12,000 to develop one hectare.It has now been decided to include watershed development programme underNational Rural Employment Guarantee Programme and allocation for the samehas been raised from Rs 16,000 crores in 2008-09 to Rs 30,100 crores in 2009-10. This is welcome but given the enormity of the problem of conservation,regeneration and augmentation of natural resources and of providingemployment to roughly 80 lakh persons who are being added to the rural labour

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