Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his latest Mann ki Baat, emphasised on the need for dedicated efforts towards water conservation and launched ‘Jal Shakti, Jan Shakti’. Maharashtra has experienced drought four times in the last five years and the scarcity of water is set to increase manifold in the years to come. Launched in 2014, Jalyukta Shivar was promising but has the state government won the battle of water? Indian Express explains
What is Jalyukta Shivar?
Jalyukta Shivar is the flagship programme of the Maharashtra government launched in December 2014. It aims to make 5,000 villages free of water scarcity. The scheme targeted drought-prone areas by improving water conservation measures in order to make them more water sustainable. The scheme envisaged to arrest maximum run-off water, especially during the monsoon months, in village areas known to receive less rainfall, annually. Under the scheme, decentralised water bodies were installed at various locations within villages to enhance the groundwater recharge. Besides, it also proposed to strengthen and rejuvenate water storage capacity and percolation of tanks and other sources of storage. Dedicated committees were formed to assist in construction of watersheds like farm ponds, cement nullah bunds alongside rejuvenating the existing water bodies in the villages.
Why was the scheme introduced?
About 82 per cent area of Maharashtra falls is rainfed sector while 52 per cent of area is drought prone. This, when coupled with natural rainfall variability and long dry spells during the monsoons, severely hampers agriculture activities. Since 2014, hundreds of villages in Marathwada, Madhya Maharashtra and Vidarbha have experienced droughts for consecutive years. For instance, when the scheme was launched in 2014, a total of 23,811 villages in 26 out of the total 36 districts were declared drought-hit. The scheme, thus, aimed at addressing these water issues mainly by building decentralised water bodies at local levels, that could aid in better groundwater recharge especially in areas where water scarcity was very high.
How does this intervention work?
Under the scheme, water streams in a locality are deepened and widened, which would later be connected to the newly constructed chains of cement nullah bunds in the village. Besides, efforts would be made to arrest and store water in small earthen dams and farm ponds in such areas. While new interventions are made, maintenance of existing sources like canals and all kinds of wells would be undertaken. Activities like desilting of water conservation structures and repairs of canals are undertaken to help improve water storage and percolation at the site. Additionally, recharge of dug and tubewells would be taken up in specific locations. Real time information of water availability due to such interventions would be gathered from each village of every tehsil from all districts and the same would be fed into a common portal. Data is available since 2015. A mobile-app developed by the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre (MRSAC) for quick monitoring of the scheme is functional in this respect.
What are the outcomes of the scheme?
While there are both short and long-term outcomes envisioned by the government, the purpose remains to strengthen the rural economy, which continues to be largely agriculture-driven. The government plans to achieve this goal of improving farmer income by addressing the basic problem pertaining to availability of water for farming or irrigation purposes. Included in the immediate outcomes of the scheme are reduction in the run-off water and diverting it to some kind of storage, increasing water storage capacity, increasing the rate of groundwater recharge, enhancing soil fertility and ultimately, improving farm productivity. The long-term outcomes after the scheme matures, include reducing water scarcity in villages that have limited natural supply, improving in risk management or becoming drought resilient and improving water availability through effective management. Through such timely interventions, the government aims to address the food and water security of its villages.
What is the current status of the scheme?
More than 11,000 villages where Jalyukta Shivar was introduced are declared drought-free. The water storage capacity has been improved to 1.6 lakh Trillion Cubic Metre (TMC). The overall scheme has so far benefitted 20 lakh hectares of protected irrigated land, which increased the cropping intensity to 1.25 to 1.5 times than before. The overall agriculture productivity jumped up 30 to 50 per cent from areas where the intervention measures reached. Importantly, the water tanker dependency in these areas dropped from 6,140 to 1,666.
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