In a major pro-farmer step, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has decided to release water from the Narmada dam for a fortnight from June 1 to help farmers in the command areas in central and north Gujarat districts to undertake pre-sowing operations.

Water Resources Minister Nitin Patel said on Saturday that the government would release 2,123 million cubic feet of water from the Narmada dam and the benefit would accrue to thousands of farmers in Vadodara, the Panchamahals, Broach, and Kaira districts in central Gujarat and Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Mehsana, Patan and Banaskantha districts in north Gujarat.

Mr. Patel said the farmers in the command areas had requested the government to supply water from the dam since most of the main canal and branch canals were ready in the central and north Gujarat regions before the onset of monsoon.

This would help them to prepare for sowing operations and get the full benefit of the monsoon.

This will be the first time that dam water is released for pre-sowing operations.

Agriculture experts said the decision would help the farmers to get early crops with minimum damage in case the monsoon was erratic.

The decision would be particularly beneficial for the farmers sowing cotton and paddy crops, Mr Patel said.