Bengaluru: The Karnataka government plans to invest Rs1 trillion in the comprehensive development of irrigation projects to mitigate the impact of deficient rainfall and resulting drought on agriculture in recent years.
The new estimates are double of the earlier outlay of Rs50,000 crore, or Rs10,000 crore per year, over five years as promised in the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government’s manifesto. Delays in completion of existing projects and associated escalation costs as well as new projects have almost doubled the outlay.
“(There is a) requirement is Rs1 lakh crore for the entire irrigation project to be completed; because irrigation depends on water allocation and once you exhaust water, there will be no further projects,” said M.B.Patil, water resources minister for Karnataka.
However, it remains unclear how the state government will mobilise the funds. Patil said the reassessment of cost of the Upper Krishna project approved in 2012—from Rs17,206 crore to Rs50,000 crore—has added almost Rs33,000 crore to the estimates.
Karnataka is also involved in multiple river water disputes with its neighbours, including those over the Krishna, Mahadayi and Cauvery rivers from which the state is mandated to release stipulated volumes of water despite poor rains.
Facing its second consecutive drought year and sixth consecutive year of deficient rainfall, the Karnataka government has been knocking on the Centre’s doors for drought relief assistance. It also hopes the completion of many of the delayed projects would reduce its dependency on central assistance in the years to come.
This year, the state has sought Rs3,373.85 crore from the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) out of the total drought related losses of Rs12,125.79 crore.
In the last three years, the state has allocated Rs42,536.27 crore, of which Rs25,283.32 crore has been released to create irrigation potential for over 570,000 acres, according to a 2013-16 report from the water resources department.
Between 2008-09 to 2012-13 (previous government), the allocation for irrigation was Rs23,724.18 crore, of which Rs18,769.64 crore has been released, according to government data.
An allocation of Rs12,619 crore has been made for the irrigation sector in the current fiscal.
Patil says that out of the 64 irrigation projects which include tank filling, micro, medium and large irrigation, 16 have been completed and 45 are in progress.
Some of the delayed and big ticket projects include the Rs13,000 crore Yetthinahole project, the Rs12,340 crore Upper Bhadra project and the Rs5,000 crore tank filling project.
Patil says there are many projects being undertaken for not just effectively using the allocated share of river waters but also for drip irrigation for sugarcane, generation of power through installation of solar panels over canals among other initiatives.