Two projects for better irrigation, potable water and sanitation in rain-fed areas submitted

The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) has proposed two separate packages to infuse additional funds — as soft loans from the World Bank (WB) — in specific pockets to help people raise their standards of living and contribute to agricultural productivity and Gross Domestic Product.

Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh has submitted two projects worth Rs. 7,500 crore to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for funding through the WB which has already evinced interest in the projects that aim at improving irrigation facilities in rain-fed areas and ensure drinking water and sanitation as a basic level service in these areas.

Proposing to upgrade the existing Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) that covers 86 million hectares of rain-fed and degraded land in the country, the Department of Land Resources (DoLR) under the MoRD has proposed a WB-assisted Watershed Management Project (WBWMP) named “neeranchal” at a total cost of Rs. 2,500 crore.

The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MoDWS) has proposed another project seeking an assistance of Rs. 5,000 crore from the WB for its Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Programme that aims at ensuring 24-hour piped water supply and integrating water supply with sanitation for village cleanliness.

The DoLR has sought WB assistance of Rs. 2,000 crore for effective implementation of the IWMP in eight out of the 28 States presently under its ambit.

The beneficiaries will be Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand in the first phase. The Centre would provide Rs. 500 crore.

The WB fund will be utilised for upgrading soft components such as better adoption of innovative and scientific approach to rain-fed agriculture, greater coordination and integration of Central and State programmes targeting rain-fed and degraded areas and strengthening institutions and capacities.

The DoLR has underlined the need for greater intervention in these dry land areas, in the first phase, hoping to increase agricultural productivity at a minimum rate of 20 per cent in these States given that 40 crore people, who were dependent on agriculture and land-based resources, still lived under internationally prescribed expenditure level of Rs. 75 a day — it is actually Rs. 22.42 in the rural areas.

Rain-fed agriculture accounts for 68 per cent of cultivation — mostly in arid and semi-arid areas — and supports 40 per cent of the population. Rainfall is less than 750 mm rainfall annually in these areas and less than 30 per cent land is under irrigation. The DoLR maintained that 38 million tonnes out of the additional 120 million tonnes of foodgrains needed to meet the nutritional requirements by 2020 had to come from these regions.

The MoDWS has sought $1 billion or roughly Rs. 5000 crore to focus on piped water schemes in the eight lagging States of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal over the next five years.

Inter-State inequities

The challenges that need to be addressed include removing inter-State inequities and coverage of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes population, sustaining delivery services, and checking deteriorating quality and quantity of water sources and, thereby, ensuring drinking water to all rural households.

These eight States have less than 10 per cent coverage of households with tap connections and sanitation facilities and the proposed model envisages implementation through community and panchayats for sustaining service delivery. The target is to cover 90 per cent of the households by 2022.

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