Carrying forward the work it started in the Union Budget two years ago, the government has made an additional allocation of almost Rs 1,000 crore for extending and strengthening irrigation facilities, and improving groundwater management in rural areas.
The Budget for the water resources ministry has seen an over 15 per cent jump compared to the revised estimates (RE) for last year. In real terms, it amounts to a total of Rs 1,200 crore, over 80 per cent (Rs 995 crore) of which has been earmarked for efficient extraction of groundwater, especially in some selected backward districts, and for command area development of irrigation projects.
“Groundwater irrigation scheme under Prime Minister Krishi Sinchai Yojna — Har Khet Ko Pani — will be taken up in 96 irrigation deprived districts where less than 30 per cent of land holdings get assured irrigation presently. I have allocated Rs 2,600 crore for this purpose,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in his Budget speech.
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The allocation for Har Khet Ko Pani programme in the RE for last year was Rs 1,888 crore.
The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), which has some other components apart from Har Khet Ko Pani, has seen its allocation go up from Rs 2,670 crore (RE) last year to Rs 3,178 crore now, an increase of nearly 20 per cent.
The fresh emphasis on irrigation builds on the massive push it had received in the 2016 Budget, when the government fast-tracked 99 ongoing irrigation projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP), to be completed in three years, by December 2019. The government had promised to generate Rs 86,500 crore over five years to fund these. Most of these projects have either been completed or are nearing completion.
The fresh impetus on irrigation would also see money flowing in for works related to command area development in projects other than the chosen 99. These projects were completed earlier, but the command area development work is still to be done.
“Our government set up a Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) in NABARD for meeting funding requirement of irrigation works (in the 99 projects). Scope of the fund would be expanded to cover specified command area development projects,” said Jaitley.
The government has also launched a new scheme to ensure groundwater extraction in areas where the water levels are high and the groundwater exploitation has not happened till now.
“We have identified 96 districts where water table is good, level of extraction is low and irrigation facilities are poor. These are mainly backward districts, many of them in the Left-Wing Extremism-affected areas. In these areas, we will try to improve groundwater extraction and facilitate groundwater irrigation,” Water Resources Secretary U P Singh told The Indian Express.
The Budget has allocated Rs 450 crore for groundwater management and regulation, which is Rs 175 crore more than the RE for last year. The money would be used for subsidising equipment like borewells, solar pumps or electricity for farmers in the selected districts.
The ongoing project to develop a real time Water Resources Information System (WRIS) has also received a big boost in this year’s Budget, with its allocation getting increased by over three times, from Rs 70 crore in RE last year to Rs 211 crore now. The WRIS project seeks to create and maintain a consolidated and updated database of all kinds of water resources in the country.
The National Water Mission, which is preparing a strategy to deal with climate change impacts on water resources, has received a more than 50 per cent jump in its budgetary allocation, mainly for research and development activities. From an allocation of Rs 60 crore last year, it has gone up to Rs 95 crore this year. The money is meant for expenditure on educational training and human resources development in water sector, and implementation of conservation practices.