Plans afoot to construct check dams, recharge ponds at a cost of Rs.1.65 crore

National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has called for intensive water and soil conservation/harvesting efforts in some blocks and other promotional efforts in Tiruchi district.

In its Potential Linked Credit Plan, the bank points out that the Cauvery is the most important river in the district irrigating 52,125 hectares. Besides, there are 75 system tanks and 99 seasonal/rainfed tanks that cover 5,751 hectares and 9,164 hectares. Net irrigated area in the district is 99,082 hectares.

The main source of irrigation is canals, open wells, tanks, and tube wells. While canals irrigated 41,573 hectares, wells irrigate 53,063 hectares, and tanks 4,446 hectares.

Besides, Agricultural Engineering Department plans to construct check dams, recharge ponds, and village ponds at a cost of Rs.1.65 crore during the current financial year.

However, NABARD says the uncertainty and limited availability of water in canals underlines the need for creating awareness on economic use of water. “Water use efficiency is to be taught through larger demonstrations preferably involving whole village.”

At the same time, it points out that the number of check dams, diverts or small reservoirs is inadequate to control water at times of heavy inundation. As energisation of pumpsets in the district takes generally three years, it has suggested popularising tatkal scheme for prompt energisation.

Besides, there are several tanks requiring renovation, repairs, and clearing of silt which can be undertaken with the assistance of the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund from NABARD.

The bank says the district has an irrigation intensity of 108 per cent. Groundwater irrigation is widely distributed covering all blocks and surface water source is restricted to Thottiyam, Musiri, Andanallur, Lalgudi, and Pullambadi blocks.

The available sources of surface water have been fully exploited in the district and hence the emphasis is shifting towards development of available groundwater in a scientific manner. Groundwater development forms major part of minor irrigation programmes and includes construction of dug wells, dug-cum-borewells, filter points, and shallow tube wells.

The bank has pointed out that only Andanallur, Pullambadi, and Thiruverumbur blocks could be called “safe” because the groundwater utilisation is up to 70 per cent. As Lalgudi and Marungapuri are found to have 70-90 per cent utilisation, they have been deemed “semi-critical”. But nine other blocks – Manapparai, Musiri, Thathaingarpet, Thuriayur, Uppiliyapuram, Manikandam, Thottiam, Vaiyampatti, and Manachanallur – are deemed “over-exploited” because the utilisation is more than 100 per cent. With specific reference to Manapparai, Marungapuri and Thathaingarpet, it said that these blocks do not have canal irrigation and farmers depend on rainfall tapped through borewells, tubewells, and dugwells. Successive draft of groundwater depletes the water table fast. “Hence intensive water and soil conservation/harvesting efforts are required.”

NABARD wants banks to understand and appreciate the need for supporting small irrigation systems, including solar-based ones, and extend credit to deserving farmers for installing pipeline systems and setting up water conservation measures, by extending adequate and timely credit.

At the same time, it has requested the State government to take appropriate measures to arrest the “alarmingly dwindling” levels of groundwater by evolving an agricultural system that economises on water and maximizes value from water.

Suggestions include recycle and reuse of water, promotion of crop diversification, adoption of integrated farming system, use of very small local-level irrigation, promoting rainwater harvesting structures, and extensive use of water saving devices, and improve and repair canal irrigation system.

“As investment for borewell/dugwell is very high and involves greater risk, the State government may consider evolving insurance scheme/failed well compensation scheme at least in backward/dry areas,” it has suggested.