Govt to recast flagship PMKSY into smart irrigation scheme
India's Jal Shakti ministry plans to revamp the flagship Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana to achieve a 20% increase in on-farm water-use efficiency, freeing up nearly 50 BCM of water, according to details seen by HT. The move will aid the country in reaching the micro-irrigation potential of covering 70 million hectares through higher use efficiency technologies amid a worsening groundwater crisis.
The Jal Shakti ministry will soon recast the flagship Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana to help reach the country’s micro-irrigation potential of covering 70 million hectares through higher use efficiency technologies amid a worsening groundwater crisis, an official said on Monday, requesting anonymity.
According to officials, irrigation expansion based on groundwater use is not sustainable anymore. Bringing 70 million hectares under micro-irrigation, a key target, will require 520 BCM of water, while total utilisable groundwater currently stands at just 240 BCM.
Over 80% of the country’s available water goes into farming, with poor efficiency and aquifers precipitously depleted in almost two-thirds of India’s districts.
For instance, India has a current farm-use average efficiency at 0.30, compared to China’s 0.53, according to World Bank data. This means Indian farmers use far more water to produce the same quantity of food than Chinese cultivators.
“The Jal Shakti ministry is seriously considering a recast of PMKSY into a smart irrigation infrastructure programme that is demand-driven, rather than being supply-driven,” the official cited above said.
Despite an estimated spending of ₹40,000 crore on building India’s irrigation infrastructure over four decades, which helped spur the Green Revolution, the network continues to be hobbled by missing last-mile connectivity, over-extraction of groundwater, and poor efficiency leading to overuse and wastage. Nearly half of India’s net-sown area still relies on the June-September monsoon for water. The annual rainy season is increasingly turning patchy due to changes in weather patterns linked to climate change.
The PMKSY will be repurposed to achieve a goal of “20% conservative increase in on-farm water-use efficiency over and above the existing 35% use efficiency”, according to details seen by HT. This will free up nearly 50 BCM of water, the official said.
Given that 146 nationally monitored reservoirs, critical for food production, drinking and power, have a current storage of 50 BCM, the quantity of water proposed to be saved through an increase of 20% water-use efficiency is substantial.
The recast PMKSY will seek to shift entirely to surface-water use and create last-mile irrigation connectivity that will be run and managed by registered farmer organisations, the official said. The projects will be run on technologies based on the Internet of Things, where water users will have to put in their demand for water.
Launched in 2015-16, the PMKSY is an umbrella scheme consisting of two major components – the accelerated irrigation benefit programme and Har Khet Ko Pani (HKKP).
Over 9,000 gram panchayats (village councils) in seven states are highly water stressed, from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana in the north to Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra in the west and Madhya Pradesh in central India and Karnataka in the south, according to the World Bank.
“Lack of last mile connectivity has effectively reduced the area with actual irrigation coverage. This means that India’s irrigation potential created is way more than that of sown area receiving irrigation water,” said Rupak Sharma of India Watershed Foundation.