New Delhi: A new momentum after a lull of two years in the Union government’s ambitious irrigation programme that aims to cover 10 million ha by 2009 could be stalled for the want of adequate funds.
The government, so far, has sanctioned only 41% of the Rs8,580 crore sought in the current fiscal year by the ministry of water resources to finance irrigation projects, considered to be a key to raising agricultural production in the country.
Need for urgency: Women plant paddy in a farm in Nalanda, Bihar. Officials in the ministry of water resources say irrigation projects in various states are taking shape and lack of funds will restrict its progress.
The Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), which is part of the four-year Bharat Nirman programme initiated in 2005, is behind schedule, with only one-third of the targets being met by the end of March.
“In the process of monitoring the programme, it has been noticed that AIBP is picking up momentum. With the objective to double agricultural growth (to 4%) in the 11th Plan and the critical role that irrigation plays in agricultural development enhanced allocation for AIBP will help realize the potential,” said a senior government official close to the development who did not wish to be identified.
According to the official, while the water resource ministry was asking for an additional Rs5,000 crore, the Planning Commission has recommended Rs2,700 crore.
But the Commission, in a letter to the finance ministry, a copy of which was viewed by Mint, has made a case for an additional allocation of Rs2,700 crore for 2007-08.
Under AIBP, the Union government’s assistance ranges between 25% and 90%. Special category states, such as those in the north-east get up to a 90% grant from the Centre.
AIBP was created in 1996-97 to cover 200 major and medium irrigation projects. It was later linked to Bharat Nirman and its scope was extended to cover minor irrigation as well.
According to officials in the ministry of water resources, irrigation projects in various states are taking shape and lack of funds will restrict its progress.
“The state governments have been forthcoming in completing various irrigation projects. While 91 major and medium projects have been completed, work is being done on another 140 projects. Besides 4,500 surface minor irrigation projects have been completed,” said an official at the ministry of water resources, who did not wish to be identified.
“When AIBP was created, it had little impact as it was restricted to major irrigation projects and benefited states such as Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka. Considering the fact that now even north-eastern states are being benefited and its scope includes surface minor irrigation, asking for more allocation is justified,” said N.J. Kurian, a former Planning Commission adviser and now director of the Council for Social Development, a think tank.