Maharashtra economic survey for 2014-15 is going to adopt the new model recommended by water management expert Madhav Chitale to derive the irrigation growth in state. This would be a clear departure from the last 15 years where water resources department and ministry of revenue and agriculture often were seen at loggerheads giving out different statistics on increase in irrigation in Maharashtra.
Highly placed sources in the water resources department revealed to Indian Express, “Chitale committee has stressed the need for the government to adopt a different method in assimilating the facts to derive at the exact irrigation potential in state in its economic survey.”
It suggested multi-tier model for the collection of data from village levels to ministry to avoid distortion of facts. The new model would also enable the government to regulate the quantum of water diverted for non-agriculture purposes namely industries from the big dams.
Unlike basing the irrigation potential on irrigation projects and water storage capacity alone, the new method stresses on field data collection based on use of water for agriculture through dams, wells and ponds.
In the economic survey for year 2013-14, the state government did not furnish the data on irrigation potential following sharp differences between ministry of agriculture and ministry of water resources.
During the Congress-NCP government, (last year) former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan believed irrigation potential was 18 per cent. But deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and former water resources minister Sunil Tatkare argued it was 23 percent.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis maintained, “The recommendations made by Chitale committee are already being implemented. We are going to adopt all the short term and long term suggestions that would go a long way in taking correctives steps in irrigation sector and addressing the problems of corruption.”
According to Fadnavis, “ Our government does not believe in manipulating the data. It is a cause of serious concern if irrigation potential of state is just 18 per cent. The national average is more than 40 per cent. And if irrigation sector is neglected it affects the farmers which cannot be ignored.”
However, the process of data collection for economic survey would require coordination amongst three nodal departments –ministry of revenue and agriculture Eknath Khadse and minister of water resources Girish Mahajan.
In a candid admission officials in ministry of agriculture said, “ The lack of coordination often resulted in inordinate delay in procuring the date on agriculture produce. Whereas, ministry of water resources calculate the land under irrigation based on total number of project (dams, wells and ponds) and how much areas it can irrigate.”
To avoid the mismatch, Chitale report on multi-crore irrigation scam has warned, “ The construction of dams and water stored cannot be incorporated as growth in irrigation potential.” It should be based on water taken from dam to the end users farmers (fields).
Incomplete canals or problems of rehabilitation of villages have lead to such issues of non-utility of dam water thus affecting the agriculture and farmers.
The delay in data collection on irrigation potential from ministry of revenue and agriculture should be addressed immediately.
Don’t declare irrigation potential based on accumulation of water in dams. Unless there are channels to distribute the water to the end users in agriculture sector, it should be incorporated to show higher irrigation growth.
Technical audit of water lifted from big dams should be mandatory. As it would not only help in registering the land brought under irrigation but also diversion of water to non-agriculture sectors. There should be audit for water used in industries.