The government will entrust water user groups with the management of 99 irrigation projects that are in various stages of development across the country. These priority projects, to be completed over the next three to five years, will bring eight million hectares of land under irrigation, Shobhana K Pattanayak, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, said.
Speaking at a conference on integrated water resource management, organised by the trade body Assocham in New Delhi, Pattanayak said participatory irrigation management by water user groups would be mandated in all those projects.
According to him, the government is targeting construction of five lakh farm ponds every year for the next five years in a bid to enhance the irrigation reach. "The government has already supported the construction of five lakh farm ponds under the employment guarantee scheme MNREGA. Almost every state is concentrating on water management," he added.
The location of the farm ponds will be close to the natural aquifers that need replenishment.
"We will use the 3D pictures generated under the National Aquifer Management Programme, being undertaken by the Ministry of Water Resources. Farm ponds in such locations will not only help capture water, but will also recharge the aquifers," he said.
The government is also putting special emphasis on the watershed approach towards agriculture and will promote dry-land agriculture. "Climate-smart crops" is the need of the hour, and millet and pulses should be grown.
"The time has come to go beyond growing paddy or sugar cane because most of the land is dry land and it is more suitable for growing climate-smart crops like millet and pulses," said Pattanayak.
Terming the rise in pulse production a "revolution", he said that between last year and this year, pulse production increased by five million tonnes.
"Last year pulse production was to the tune of 16.4 million tonnes, but in one single year, we have caught up by five million tonnes, which has been made possible by farmers and a host of beneficial factors--high prices, the minimum support price (MSP) declared by the government, availability of seed and so on," he said.