State urged to explore possibility of private players
The State Government should take steps to solve water problem, G. Kumaravel, Full Time Member, State Planning Commission, has said.
Thirty per cent of water in urban areas and around 60 per cent rural areas were polluted by domestic and industrial wastes. The Government must clean the water system and it could explore the possibility of roping in private players in water management, he said at a workshop on ‘Water – Public-private Partnership' at the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) here on Tuesday.
Water from Orathupalayam Dam in Tirupur was polluted because of effluents from the dyeing industry there. Private players could be asked to take steps to clean the water. For instance, a farmer who came forward to raise trees that would withstand the polluted water and still grow trees for wood could be financially encouraged.
The wood he grew could be used in the textile town, which required around 4,000 tonnes for fuel. The idea was to clean and reuse water and also save the environment.
Tamil Nadu suffered a deficit of 45 per cent in meeting its water requirement for irrigation he said and wanted experts present at the workshop to come out with solutions that would be implementable.
Novel methods had to be devised to manage irrigation, said K. Karunakaran, Vice-Chancellor, Anna University of Technology-Coimbatore.
Once such method could be privatisation, he said and added that by privatisation he meant a reduction in the influence of the bureaucracy and enhancement of private initiatives in water management.
That did not mean that Government control should not be there. The focus was on reducing government's influence than eliminating it.
Mr. Karunakaran said reforms in water management were needed because of the growing investment needs in the sector and the deteriorating financial and physical health of public irrigation projects.
The private sector could be involved in financing, constructing, operating, maintaining and managing irrigation projects. Such participation could also minimise some of the negative effects of public management like delayed construction, cost escalation, etc.
Improvements in irrigation efficiency had helped increase irrigated area, said P. Murugesa Boopathi, Vice-Chancellor of TNAU.
With improvements in irrigation efficiency the gross irrigated area had increased to 71.51 million ha.
The percentage of gross cropped area under irrigation increased from 18.3 per cent in 1960-61 to 23 per cent in 1970-71 and over 38 per cent by 1997-98.
At present, about half the area under irrigation in the country was irrigated through ground water sources.
According to him the problems were the neglect of canal irrigation leading to poor water utilisation, water logging, salinity, fall in water table caused by increase in number of tube well irrigation and change in water quality.
Mr. Boopathi suggested that water management experts study alternative policy initiatives in irrigation to sustain the growth of the agriculture sector.