Mumbai: The Maharashtra government on Wednesday decided to make drip irrigation mandatory for sugarcane owners in the state to tide over the severe drought that is affecting many parts of the state even as the Centre cleared a proposal to provide financial assistance of Rs.1,207 crore to the state for drought mitigation.
Replying to a discussion on drought in the state legislative council, initiated by leader of the opposition Vinod Tawade on Wednesday, state deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said Maharahstra will make drip irrigation mandatory for sugarcane growers in the state over the next three-five years and sugarcane factories will be asked to ensure the same.
Maharashtra is suffering one of the worst droughts in the last four decades. Western and northern Maharashtra and the Marathwada region are suffering its worst effects. Mint reported 20 February that the Maharashtra government was contemplating the idea of making drip irrigation compulsory for sugarcane growers in the state; this has potential to save up to 60% of water.
The state is the largest producer of sugarcane and sugar in the country. It accounts for one-third of the country’s sugar production.
H.M. Desarda, an agriculture economist and former member of the state planning commission, was cited in the 20 February story as welcoming the state government’s move.
“Almost all the sugarcane in the state is produced in the rain shadow areas of the state using canal water,” he had said. “This method of sugarcane production is neither economically sustainable nor environmentally sustainable.”
Meanwhile, replying to Wednesday’s discussion on drought in the assembly, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said, “To overcome unceasing problem of drought in the state, the government has decided to allocate 25% of state’s budget for irrigation, water conservation and allied activities.” He added, “The state government has identified 105 small irrigation projects, which can be completed within a year’s time and it will help to solve water problem of more than 2,200 villages.”
Chavan said that while last year 250 tankers were pressed into service to provide water in rural areas, this year the number has already gone beyond 2,300 and the situation is likely to get worse with the number of tankers reaching as much as 4,000.
In a related development in New Delhi, an empowered group of ministers (EGoM) headed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, decided to Wednesday to provide financial assistance to mitigate the drought situation.
“The Rs.1,207 crore assistance includes Rs.400 crore as a compensation for orchard owners whose orchards of pomegranate, custard apple, and sweet lime among other fruits, were wrecked due to drought,” said a senior state government official, who did not want to be identified.
Around Rs.180 crore will be used to provide fodder and water to cattle in the cattle camps in drought affected regions, he said, adding the remaining amount will be used for compensating to farmers for loss of crop.
All farmers will be provided compensation at the rate of Rs 4,500 per hectare up to 2 hectare, if they are engaged in rain-fed farming, and farmers with irrigation facility will be provided compensation of Rs.9,000 per hectare