The Congress-led agriculture department has avoided a direct conflict with the Nationalist Congress Party-led water resources department by ignoring an observation in this year’s economic survey that the irrigation potential created was much less than claimed by the department concerned.
But, it has said that there was a huge gap between the irrigation potential created and the actual area irrigated with the help of the projects undertaken by the water resources department.
The agriculture department has provided the statistics to the planning department, which has predicted a drastic reduction in farm produce this year because of deficit rainfall. Projections say that the total production of food grain will reduce by 18% and sugarcane output will drop by a whopping 33%.
This year’s survey says that the total irrigation potential created by major, minor and minor projects till June 2011 was 48.25 lakh hectares, of which only 32.52 lakh hectares were used in 2011-12. This is a slight increase from the 29.55 lakh hectares used in 2010-11. The utilisation includes not only the actual irrigation by projects, but also by canals, lift and water released in rivers and nullahs. The area under irrigation by wells (12 lakh hectares) has been mentioned separately.
Of the 355 talukas in the state, 39% talukas in 15 districts have received scanty rainfall. Majority areas in the western and central Maharashtra and few districts in north Maharashtra and Vidarbha are fighting a serious water scarcity in peak summer. Experts feel that efficient planning and execution by the water resources department could have offered significant relief to the drought-affected areas. In January this year, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had, in an interview with HT, blamed the drought on bad planning by water resources department.
Last year’s finding that the irrigation potential increased by only 0.01% had created a rift between the Congress and NCP. Chavan had asked for a white paper from water resources department, following which many scams came to the fore and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar had to resign.
Officials in the agriculture department said that they, including the minister in-charge Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, are firm on their stand. “There was no point in giving the same figure to surveyors,” said a senior bureaucrat.