The state government has created additional irrigation potential of 39 lakh hectares of land, surpassing the past record of 32 lakh hectares attained in the year 2005. The irrigation potential data is for the period between mid-March 2016 and 2017. After the summer crop rotation, it expects the irrigation potential to increase to 41 lakh hectares by April-end 2017.
A highly placed source in the Ministry of Water Resources said, “Due to a good monsoon, water storage across 3,037 dams was 83 per cent. This helped us to meet the target in the irrigation command area.”
The outcome is being attributed to the enforcement of the vision document along with reforms for better water management in dams. It has been backed with changed crop pattern at the taluka levels.
During 2015-16, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had worked with every relevant department for a comprehensive vision document drawing a detailed roadmap with definite targets till 2019. Adhering to the plans, Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan held 80 meetings taluka wise. The canal advisory committee was set up to carry out better water management.
At the end of three years, 150 projects will be completed, which will increase to 250 projects by end of five years.
According to officials, “As per our calculation, if all our dams are 100 per cent filled with water, the maximum irrigation potential would be 49 lakh hectares.”
“But with the completion of ongoing 250 projects under our command area, we expect to enhance the irrigation potential by 7.5 lakh hectares in the next five years. Thus our objective is to take the irrigation potential to 55 lakh hectares by 2019-20,” he said.
Notwithstanding the recurring droughts in the last three to four years, the administration’s biggest challenge was to check theft of water from dams for non-agricultural purposes.
According to the officials, “The water lifting from the dam beyond its reserved quota was to the tune of 25 to 30 per cent. It was essentially used for commercial and industrial purposes. Even within the agriculture sector, water lifting for sugarcane cultivation was also a cause of concern adversely affecting the overall irrigation potential.”
The stringent measures taken by the government in the last one-and-a-half years included better dam management along with greater focus on optimising available water by plugging leakages from canals.
Indicating that dam water metering will be the next move, sources said, “This would help us to generate an additional revenue up to Rs 750 to Rs 800 crore. This can be achieved through metering of dam water.”
While observing that peak summer stretched between March end to June, sources said dam water storage may decline beyond 40 per cent. Sources added, “There should be no cause for concern for farmers as agriculture will continue to get the highest priority after drinking water.”
The change in the crop pattern, especially in drought- stricken districts, along with implementation of drip irrigation for high water intensive crops are being pushed.
In the year 2016, the total expenditure incurred on drip irrigation subsidies to farmers was Rs 445 crore, covering crops across 1.02 lakh hectares. The economic survey 2016-17 projects a decrease in sugarcane area by 36 per cent and a production drop by 28 per cent.
The officials in the ministry of agriculture said, “The greater awareness about water management and changed crop pattern are beginning to bring some positive signs which was reflected in reduced sugar cane cultivation.” In spite of a good monsoon, farmers are not banking on sugar cane cultivation.