The Jal Shakti Abhiyan that began from July 1, has many focus areas as explained here. One among them is to emphasize on prudent water management in agriculture as this is a sector which consumes a large amount of water. During the launch of Jal Shakti Abhiyan, the Jal Shakti Minister took the examples of two states which have a certain policy in place to deal with the overuse of water in agriculture- Haryana and Maharashtra. Though it needs a couple of years more to actually see the impact of their respective water-related policies, the measures they have adopted are certainly a service to the cause of water conservation. Let’s see what have they done.
Haryana’s Discouragement to Paddy
This year, Haryana government has taken a decision to discourage paddy sowing since it is a water-intensive crop.
This is how the state is pursuing this initiative.
- As per this report, at the end of May this year, around 3,491 Haryana farmers have shifted to alternative crops, mainly maize, from paddy cultivation covering more than 1,600 hectare land.
- A pilot project has been carried in seven blocks of the state and eventually, Haryana is looking to shift 50,000 hectares to maize, pulses, and oilseeds from paddy.
- The identified farmers will be provided seeds free of cost by the state government.
- A financial assistance of ₹2,000 per acre will be provided in two parts. The maize crop insurance premium of ₹766 per hectare will also be borne by the government under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.
- The state will procure the maize produce through its agencies.
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had this to say about the initiative.
“During the 1970s, maize and pulses were major crops in Haryana, but they have been replaced by water-guzzling crops such as paddy and wheat. To revive the old maize or pulses area, immediate crop diversification of paddy by maize and pulses is our priority.”
Maharashtra’s Approach in Sugarcane Farming
Sugarcane, as all know, has been dependent on flood irrigation. In the state where a large number of districts are under drought, the major share of water meant for irrigation used to be consumed by sugarcane farming. In 2017, Maharashtra government had initiated a process where drip irrigation was incentivized against the traditional water guzzling method.
- It gave subsidized loans of ₹85,000 per hectare for installation of drip irrigation system in farms.
- Farmers who repay the loans on the schedule will be charged only a 2% rate of interest and the state government and sugar factories will bear 4% and 1.25% interest cost respectively.
It seems that as of now, the state is in constant communication with farmers in this matter as this year too the state government reminded the people that drip irrigation is compulsory in sugarcane farming.
For Jal Shakti Abhiyan to succeed, a concerted effort from all the stakeholders including individuals and governments are needed. These two instances serve as a broader guideline on how the state governments can frame a policy for water conservation in agriculture.
You may also like to read our earlier article Water Schemes That Bring Hope in Times of Drought and Despair.