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The Parliamentary committee on water resources is looking at how to conserve water in farming with a focus on micro-irrigation programme ‘Per Drop, More Crop’ and crop diversification.

Members of the committee who met on Monday also voiced their concern on the impact of depleting ground water on the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

According to people aware of the development, the committee is taking a close look at the broader issue of ground water conservation and ways in which its depletion—particularly for agricultural use—is impacting crop patterns in the arid regions of states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. The committee is likely to submit a report next year with its recommendations.

“There was discussion about how there are a lot of areas which are affected by the depletion of ground water including in Punjab, Haryana and states in north-east region. Government officials informed the panel that for agricultural purposes, 65% ground water is used compared to surface water which accounts only for 35%," a person aware of developments said requesting anonymity.

According to government estimates, 89% of the total ground water available is used for irrigation and 10% on domestic use.

The standing committee met to discuss “ground water, a valuable but diminishing resource". Officials from the departments of agriculture, cooperation and farmers’ welfare as well as from water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation briefed the committee. Another meeting could be called in a fortnight.

“On Monday, progress of and issues in the implementation of the ‘Per Drop, More Crop’ (PDMC) scheme was also discussed. Members were of the view that the government’s estimate of benefit of the scheme in some of the states must be reassessed. A section of states has complained that the machinery provided under the scheme has operational and durability issues. More details have been sought from the officials," another person aware of developments added.

PDMC is part of the centrally sponsored Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) which focuses on enhancing water use efficiency at farms through micro irrigation techniques.

“The issues of ground water depletion are closely linked with promoting crop diversification as well as work under MGNREGA. In the meeting, a discussion also took place on what are the ways in which growing of cereals and oil seeds are being encouraged. Members felt more needs to be done to popularize crop diversification and make it more lucrative for farmers," said the second person quoted above.

The person added that work on old ponds and small dams under MGNREGA has been hit due to depletion of ground water.

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