NATIONAL

Water bodies to be restored to their original capacity

The State Rural Development Department has planned to remove encroachment on scores of water bodies, falling under its jurisdiction, and restore the storage of the water bodies to their original capacity.

This work will be taken up under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). Totally, there are 70,368 water bodies, of which minor irrigation tanks account for 21,609 and ponds and ‘ooranies' – 48,759.

As a prelude to the execution of this work, the Department is preparing to bring out the corrected version of block-wise, village panchayat-wise maps, which will display the water bodies. [Till now, the block-wise maps indicate only the boundaries of revenue villages].

For digitisation of the corrected maps, the Department has taken the help of the Institute of Remote Sensing (IRS), Anna University. Its officials say that the digitisation will be completed by the middle of March. At that time, policy makers and administrators can have the maps for all 385 blocks and 12,524 village panchayats. Once digitised, one can draw out a map for a village panchayat from the map for a given block.

Asked about the number of encroached water bodies, the officials reply that an exhaustive study is underway, only after which will they be able to give an exact figure.

They prefer to describe the maps as corrected because details available in the satellite-based maps, supplied by the IRS to them earlier, were verified through field surveys. Many more details were subsequently added.

Using the corrected maps, the authorities can prepare a shelf of development projects for each village panchayat. Originally, the preparation of maps was planned to avoid random selection of water bodies. As the government is now permitting more than one worksite in a village panchayat, the maps will be helpful in finalising appropriate worksites in the panchayats.

They also say that no other State has carried out the preparation of such maps on such a scale. The Andhra Pradesh government has evinced interest in the project of Tamil Nadu.

Wages

This year, about Rs.1,970 crore was, so far, disbursed towards wages of beneficiaries. This was Rs.100 crore higher than what was given during the corresponding period of the previous financial year, the officials add. For 2011-2012, the allocation was Rs.3,472 crore.

Land development

Four districts have been chosen under the scheme to carry out land development activity on lands belonging to small and marginal farmers and Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes.

The districts are Erode, Virudhunagar, Tiruchi and Thanjavur where beneficiaries of the scheme will be allowed to take up the activity on a pilot basis, according to an official of the Rural Development Department.

In the case of fallow lands, tilling, levelling and bund formation will be carried out. In respect of utilisable lands, pitting, tree plantation and the creation of percolation ponds and farm ponds will be allowed. The rationale behind the move is that the farmers cannot afford the cost of land development.

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