National

Centre mulls mega fund flow to push irrigation

India’s apex rural-development bank will manage a Rs. 77,000-crore corpus as part of a Central government push to complete 99 unfinished irrigation projects across the country by 2019, and bring water to 76.03 lakh hectares. The contours of the scheme were first made public by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech this February and involve finishing 149 projects overdue since 1997.

“All drought and suicide-prone districts will be first covered,” Union Minister of Water Resources (MoWR) Minister Uma Bharti told a press conference. “This time there will be short-cut (sic) appraisals…and incentives will be given to States who complete their projects before time.”

The 99 projects, details of which weren’t immediately made public, are part of 149 irrigation projects across the country where at least Rs. 67, 539 crore has been spent until March 2015 to build dams and irrigation projects but with little water actually making it to farmers’ fields. Traditionally the Central government apportioned money to States to complete projects.

‘Innovations in place’

Government officials said this time several innovations were in place to ensure that these projects are completed. The key hindrance used to be that States lacked funds to complete projects but now rules have been amended to allow them to get loans from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) for their projects. “We will have stricter processes…maybe with an app to monitor the status of a project,” said Amarjit Singh, a top official in the Water Ministry. “States can borrow additional funds from NABARD.”

Through NABARD, the government will provide 15-year loans at 6% interest and ensure that a project is sanctioned only if panchayats and local water-use associations are closely involved. “The average cost over-run of projects so far has been 352% with some more than 2000%,” said Shashi Shekhar, Secretary, MoWR. “To ensure efficiency we need more participation from end-users.”

Saving water

The 99-project scheme, projected to be completed by December 2019 is part of an over-arching Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) launched to help farmers have efficient access to water and introduce sustainable water-conservation projects. The PMKSY subsumes schemes such as the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) and several other projects to repair and restore bodies that have been launched by previous governments.

Arvind Panagariya, vice-president, NITI Aayog, the government’s planning advisory said his organisation would be an “independent monitor” of the 99-project scheme. “Last mile connectivity has been a major problem…NITI Aayog will act as an independent check,” he added; 297 irrigation/multi-purpose projects were included for funding under AIBP; 143 have been completed and 5 foreclosed.

An irrigation potential of 24.39 lakh hectares was created through these projects and benefited 25 States, according to a press release from the MoWR.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 9:28:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Centre-mulls-mega-fund-flow-to-push-irrigation/article14625042.ece

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