Fifteen years after the Maharashtra government decided to support Israel’s drip irrigation method, the projected savings for farmers haven’t been achieved despite the higher subsidy expenditure.
Of the 32 lakh hectares of irrigated farmland in the state, drip irrigation is confined to only 6 lakh hectares or roughly 18 per cent area.
While the drip method yields excellent results as far as output goes, the cost factor is a deterrent especially in the wake of crop damage due to drought and hail storm.
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Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “The state government is providing 50 to 60 per cent subsidies to small and marginal farmers for drip irrigation. It is essential in state which is reeling under drought. It not only ensure better water management in fields but also makes agriculture possible within limited water. It also brings about higher yields of crops.”
The total expenditure incurred by the state government on subsidies for drip irrigation between 2009 and 2014 works to Rs 1,918 crore.
Raju Shetty, MP and Shetkari Sanghatana leader said, “Drip irrigation is essential and brings good results. But the government will not only have to provide financial support for the drip infrastructure but also sustain its maintenance and repair.”
Farmers with land holding less than two hectares make a one-time investment and use it for three to four years. And then when it requires repairs or replacement it is discarded thus defeating the purpose of drip irrigation.
In 2014, state government had made drip irrigation mandatory for sugar cane cultivation. The average cost for drip irrigation is Rs 90,000 per hectare for the crop. The state government had indicated that if it were to provide full subsidy to cane growers for drip it would incur expenditure of Rs 4,000 crore covering almost nine lakh hectares of land.