Watershed scheme gets a digital push in Andhra Pradesh

State puts in place technology that allows it to automate all critical functions, including work, payment details


A file photo of an irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh. The absence of an information communication technology solution made execution and monitoring of many projects complicated. Photo: Mint
A file photo of an irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh. The absence of an information communication technology solution made execution and monitoring of many projects complicated. Photo: Mint

Hyderabad: The Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) is one of the most important schemes launched by the Union government in 2009-10 to restore ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources such as soil, vegetative cover and water and create sustainable livelihoods for the poor.

Out of net cultivated area of 142 million hectares (ha), 85 million ha, or 60%, is rainfed in the country. Rainfed areas are the hot-spots of poverty, water scarcity, low productivity, malnutrition and are prone to severe land degradation.

With 90% financial assistance from the centre, the combined state of Andhra Pradesh launched the IWMP scheme in 2009-10. As of now, 423 watershed projects are under implementation, covering 1.81 million ha at an estimated cost of Rs.2,290 crore. In Andhra Pradesh, the average size of watershed project is 4,200 ha.

The state government selects the project areas based on location, based on inputs from the AP State Remote Sensing and Application Centre (APSRSC).

The works under IWMP include—soil conservation measures such as terracing, bunding, trenching and vegetative barriers; rain water harvesting activities like farm ponds, percolation tanks and check dams and natural regeneration efforts like planting multi-purpose trees, shrubs, grasses, legumes and pasture land development.

Within a year of the launch, the Andhra Pradesh government realised that due to the absence of comprehensive information communication technology (ICT) solution, planning, execution and monitoring of so many projects is turning out to be a complicated task.

The manual system led to slow pace of implementation, funds getting parked at various levels unutilised, bogus muster rolls and payments, and lack of standardisation of works leading to reduced accuracy in terms of budgeting. “Given several layers and multi-pronged nature of the programme, adoption of ICT solution for IWMP was a challenge,” said Srinivas Ganti, chief financial officer and state technical expert of IWMP.

The one advantage for the government was that it has been able to successfully roll out a smart card project based on ICT solution for seamless enrolment and payment of wages to beneficiaries under Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and Social Security Pensions at the doorsteps of beneficiaries. The smart card project allowed the government to build an impressive master database of 12.7 million people and establish tie-ups with banks, business correspondents and technology providers. “We have built-in structure, database and enabling infrastructure thanks to smart card project, we went ahead and customised that application to suit watershed programme requirements,” Ganti said.

The Andhra Pradesh government tied up with software services firm Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) to build an end-to-end application that works on a basic Internet connection. TCS also runs the data centre for the project. In fact, TCS built the software for the smart card project as well.

There are three level of users of the application. One is the state-level nodal agency that oversees implementation, financial, analytical and performance of the project; the second is the district-level agency which monitors physical and financial progress and the field level agency, which is called the project implementing agency, enters details for project sanction, generates fund transfers orders and work status reports.

The project implementing agency works closely with village panchayats and women’s self-help groups in training, enlisting workers, execution and maintenance of projects.

Technology allowed the government to automate all critical functions of IWMP which include detailed project reports, basic and specific details of work, generation of estimates, technical and administrative sanctions, execution of work, entry of muster details, and payments.

Mint has a strategic partnership with Digital Empowerment Foundation, which hosts the Manthan awards.

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