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AGRICULTURE is one of the core sector for economic growth of the country. The overall growth of the country is determined by various parameters. Irrigation is considered as a life line of the India’s agriculture. The outstanding feature of Indian agriculture is its dependence on rainfall. Due to unequal distribution of rainfall during the year and its variation from year to year-in respect of quantity, incidence and duration, the Indian agriculture gets affected. Hence the development of irrigation was adopted priority in the India’s Five-year plans. Considerable amount was spent for the development of irrigation in the Five-year plans. In the first Five-year plan, irrigation accounted for an expenditure of Rs 456 crore and created irrigation potential was of the order of 3.66 million hectare. The 11th plan envisages creation of an additional potential of 16 million hectares at an estimated required outlay of about Rs 2,10,000 crore. Of the 182.7 million hectares of land used for cultivation, only about 62 million hectares is currently irrigated; the rest depend entirely on monsoon rains. Hence, from the agriculture point of view, enlarging the cropped area under assured irrigation is critical for Indian economy. India’s agriculture sector currently used about 90 per cent of total water resources. Irrigated agriculture has been fundamental to economic development, but unfortunately caused ground water depletion. India draws 80 per cent of its water resources from groundwater. India receives an average of 4,000 billion cubic metres of rainfall every year. Unfortunately, only 48 per cent of rainfall ends up in India’s rivers. Due to lack of storage and crumbling infrastructure, only 18 per cent can be utilized. Rainfall is confined to the monsoon season mainly form June to September, when India gets, on an average, 75 per cent of its total annual precipitation. Once again, due to India’s storage crunch the government is unable to store surplus water for the dry season. Government should take corrective policy decisions to balance the gap between supply and demand of water for the major sectors (Agriculture, Industry and Urbanisation etc.) as water is a scare resource. The scarcity of water becomes a bigger and bigger problem, rural and farming areas will most likely to hit the hardest. There is a clear picture about future need to augment irrigation capacity in agriculture as far as food production for rapidly growing population is concerned.


Efficient use of water resources is basic to survival of the ever increasing population of a country. In some areas, timing and amount of rainfall are not adequate to meet the moisture requirement of crops. Therefore, supplementary irrigation is essential to raise the crops, necessary to meet the needs of food and fiber for the growing population. Scientific irrigation water management techniques provide the best way to meet the irrigation requirement against weather induced fluctuations. The total irrigation potential was earlier estimated at 113.8 million hectares been revised to 140 million hectares. The share of major and medium schemes that are surface water based is 58.5 million hectares, whereas that of minor schemes, based on surface water is 17.4 million hectares. There has been large scale irrigation development but there was short fall in utilization of the potential created. To focus attention on efficient utilization of the created resources, a multi-disciplinary agency, the command area development authority was constituted in 1974-75. Command area development programme has been implemented in more than 100 irrigation projects with good results. India is very fortune country to have many rivers whose total catchment’s area is estimated to be 252.8 million hectares. Central Water Commission, Government of India, has divided the whole country in 20 river basins comprising 12 major basins, each having catchment’s area exceeding 20,000 KM and 8 composite river basis combining suitably together all the other remaining medium and small river systems. If we look in to the water availability per caput in 2001, it was 1,820 cubic meter over 1,027 million population which is expected to be reduced up to 1,341 cubic meters in 2025 over 1,394 (projected) million population. Country’s water demand is dominated by irrigation needs. The total water demand for agriculture, domestic and industrial sectors of India in 1995 was estimated to be about 650 KM3, of this about 90% is withdrawn for agriculture sector. To bridge the gap between water availability and requirement, inter-basin water transfers by inter-linking of rivers may be a viable alternative, which would also take care of the requirement of the water short areas, including drought prone areas. Use of Scientific water management system, use of waste water from the industries, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, drainage water are the ways about which one can think of. It’s a big hurdle before the policy makes to find out the ways to come out.


The Union Ministry of Water Resources constituted a standing sub-committee for assessment of availability and requirement of water. Government have put forward a multi-prolonged approach highlighting the need for completion of storage dams, interlinking of rivers, recycling of domestic waters and of industrial used water, desalination of sea water and artificial recharge ground water. Availability of irrigation water is an important factor in increasing the food grain production but availability of water is decreasing each day due to overuse of underground water. The Central Ground Water Board has identified 1,065 assessment blocks as over exploited or critical. The strategy proposed for water recharge is to divert rain water into dug wells. India Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) has set up one teaching-cum-demonstration model of water harvesting in each of 32 selected State Agriculture Universities and ICAR institutes to train 100 trainers and 1000 farmers every year. Irrigation accounts for an enormous portion of the world’s water use. Thus, most efficient utilization of even a small amount of irrigation water would free large amounts of water for other uses. We should ensure that our old water recharge systems are sustained and enhances, new recharge systems are developed.

Some possible ways are as given below.

1. Use of good agriculture practices. In Australia, water consumption in agriculture has been reduces by 30 per cent in the past 20 years by good agriculture practices.

2. Need to encourage modern irrigation methods like Drip Irrigation method.

3. Farmers should avoid one time flood irrigation system in their fields and instead should give more number of irrigation at intervals for higher inputs.

4. Use of Moisture conservation techniques like mulching can reduce the water requirement up to some extent.

5. Waste water of kitchen and toilet cam also be recycled and channelled for farming or charging of the underground water.

6. Computer-controlled system can be used to supervise the soil moisture and provide water when necessary. This will lead to irrigation efficiency.

7. Farmers can switch to more water-efficient, drought-resistant and salt-tolerant crop varieties.

8. Farmers can use organic farming techniques which result in higher crop yield per hectare and require only one-fourth of water and fertilizer.

9. Better farming techniques, such as leaving crop residue on fields and ground cover on drainage ways could reduce water losses dramatically.

Thus, there is need to efficiently conserve the available water resources and use them judiciously with modern technological tools.


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Mahendra K Patidar has 5 articles online


MAHENDRA K Patidar is a Computer Engineer currently pursuing PGDM with Banking, Insurance and Financial Services from Institute of Public Enterprise Hyderabad. He is the founder of a NGO named as PRATIGYA Foundation, which work for rural segment of the country. He is also writing a book titled as "Where we are going..???" A facet of rural India: Problems and Prospects. He love to Write articles. His previous articles includes "Literacy and Economic Development", "High-Tech INDIA:Still a DREAM", "Madhya Pradesh: Undermined or Undermanaged", "INDIAN SPORTS: Why can't we think beyond Money??" and "Do we really need B-School??".


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This article was published on 2011/03/22
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