Bengaluru: The Karnataka government will commission the second phase of a massive drip irrigation project in Bagalkot district, one of India’s driest regions, in about two months, an official from the state water resource ministry said, requesting anonymity.
The Ramthal project in Bagalkot’s Hungund taluk was developed at around Rs762 crore. When completed, it will irrigate nearly 70,000 acres, helping 15,000 farming households. The state government claims this is Asia’s largest drip irrigation project.
The first phase of the project was completed in 2013-14 at a cost of Rs935 crore.
Unlike the fertile and irrigated basins of south Karnataka, the northern parts are rain-fed, with low soil fertility.
On completion of Phase II, areas that receive water from a regular canal will be able to save an additional 1.34 tmc ft of water. The project uses 5.84 tmcft of water; 3.07 tmcft for Phase I and 2.77 tmcft for phase II.
Karnataka has three climatic classes: arid, semi-arid and humid. The state natural disaster management centre has identified almost 90 taluks as drought-prone. In 2014, the entire state—in all three monsoon classifications— recorded 1,155mm of rain which was the last known year of normal rainfall. Rains failed in the following years. The state government said the deficiency was almost 50% in 2016, triggering a water crisis and restrictions on agricultural activity.
M.B. Patil, Karnataka water resources minister, said in an earlier interview that drip irrigation increases conveyance efficiency in the canal system from around 60-70% to nearly 100%.
“We are already experimenting drip irrigation in both gravity and pump-assisted flows for about 500-1,000 hectares. Farmers are growing maize, jowar and sunflower among other crops here,” said the project engineer cited above.
The Karnataka government has missed deadlines in various irrigation projects due to slow pace of work, want of necessary clearances, legal challenges and local protests among other reason which include Upper Bhadra lift irrigation project, Yettinahole project and Varahi lift irrigation project among others, resulting in a sharp decrease in cultivated land. Already at a disadvantage to neighbouring states in the Cauvery and the Mahadayi river water sharing issues, Karnataka is looking at alternative irrigation methods.
It has been experimenting with other micro irrigation projects including Savanuru, Tubachi-Bableshwar and Poorigali, among others.
Patil told Mint earlier that the government in talks with sugarcane farmers to bring the water-intensive crops under drip irrigation as well. He says this project will aim to bring in over 1 million acres of sugarcane growing under drip irrigation, which could bring down water consumption to around 144 tmc ft from around 330 tmc ft currently, resulting in savings of around 186 tmc ft.