NATIONAL

Restoration of waterbodies a priority: Chidambaram

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The World Bank on Friday signed a $325-million loan agreement with the Union Government to help Maharashtra improve productivity of its water resources.

The tripartite agreement was signed here in the presence of World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz and Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.Mr. Wolfowitz said: "One of the most important things I've been discussing with my hosts is how the World Bank can do more to support the critical challenge of scaling up rural infrastructure. The Government has recognised the importance of this task for the millions of citizens who live in rural India. I hope this project — which is aimed at making every drop of water count in Maharashtra — can be an excellent example of development work making a real difference to people battling to improve their lives."

Mr. Chidambaram said repairs, renovation and restoration of "waterbodies are our national priority. A national project has been launched that covers restoration of waterbodies, either natural or manmade, directly linked to agriculture. The Maharashtra project supports our national objective as it covers rehabilitation and modernisation of irrigation schemes as well as improving the safety of dams."

The project will address some of these issues by promoting multisectoral planning and sustainable development of scarce water resources, apart from helping to improve irrigation service delivery and agricultural productivity in the State.

The project, it is envisaged, will increase irrigation coverage by about 22 per cent and crop yields by 5-20 per cent. Farm incomes, on an average, are expected to increase by 49 per cent while about 33,610 farmer households fully dependent on agriculture will be enabled to rise above the poverty line.

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