At a time when land has become one of the most critical inputs for economic development, the West Bengal government has embarked on a programme to reclaim wastelands in order to make them arable. This programme has been dovetailed into the Central project — Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI) — which was launched in 2010-11.
The main tenets of this strategy is the development of cultivable wastelands into arable lands, development of sand-laden area into arable lands, land-shaping and rising and development of uncultivable wastelands through plantation.
The programme is being panned out through the State covering the drylands in Purulia and Bankura in the west, the sand-laden area in the Teesta in the north and saline coastal areas in the south.
The sloppy uplands of Purulia, Bankura, Paschim Medinipur, part of Birbhum and Burdwan are being developed and converted into cultivable land through field bunding, graded bunding and terracing. Most of the districts selected for this venture are semi-arid regions.
By adopting graded bunding and other conservation measures, in-situ moisture conservation increases significantly eventually increasing crop production and productivity. By creating a water resource, the cropping intensity of these newly developed lands is being increased manifold.
In the Teesta-Terai agro-climatic zone covering the districts of Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, and the Siliguri sub division of Darjeeling, the soil moisture varies due to flash floods in the monsoon.
Conservation work has helped enhance productivity.
By excavation and re-excavation of water-harvesting structures and by water harvesting, a significant area has been brought under command area which has helped during dry season in kharif crop and in the post-monsoon rabi crop.
In the coastal saline zone, which suffers from inundation in the South 24 Parganas area due to its saucer shape, land shaping and raising has been done to increase cropping intensity.
In uncultivable wastelands, where soil erosion has impacted farming, horticultural crops like cashew, mango, guava and citrus fruits are being planted along with fast growing forest species like eucalyptus. This has converted many of these lands into a productive one.
The State’s latest Economic Review said schemes on land and water resources development through soil and water conservation measures in degraded lands of the State has been included in the Rajiv Gandhi Krishi Vikas Yojana since the programme’s inception in 2007-08.
Over 3,631 hectares of land has been treated and made arable in this manner.