Optimising Water Use: Experience and best practices in irrigation in Madhya Pradesh

Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for over 50 per cent of India’s population and it is important to the country’s overall socio-economic structure. Due to this, irrigation is the largest consumer of water in the country. At present, India uses more than 80 per cent of its water for irrigation. According to a report by NITI Aayog, the overall irrigated co­m­mand area in 24 states increased from 55.38 million hectares in 2015-16 to 63.94 million hectares in 2017-18. Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are among the top states in terms of irrigated command area.

Irrigation in Madhya Pradesh

Agriculture is the most dominant economic ac­ti­vity in Madhya Pradesh. Till 2014, the total ir­rigation potential created through the open canal system in the state was 3.3 million hec­tares. According to the Central Water Commis­sion, the observed water use efficiency (WUE) of these projects in the country is in the range of 35-50 per cent. The WUE in Madhya Pradesh has been measured at 43-48 per cent using the open canal system.

The Madhya Pradesh government has la­un­ched an ambitious programme to improve water use efficiency in the state. For all new projects, the government is providing a pressurised irrigation network (PIN) to the tune of 2.5 million hectares with the objective of increasing the WUE to 70-80 per cent. This plan will help the state irrigate the maximum land with limited water availability.

The state government is undertaking many major and medium irrigation projects to reduce the cost of farming and increase production. Two of the noteworthy projects for the state are the Mohanpura irrigation project and the Kun­dalia irrigation project. Together, the two proje­cts are expected to irrigate over 285,000 hectares of land.

Mohanpura irrigation project

The Mohanpura major irrigation project was la­un­ched in 2018 at an estimated investment of Rs 38.66 billion. It directly benefits over 700 villages and is helping in the irrigation of over 0.13 million hectares of land. The project is also providing drinking water to over 400 villages in the state. The catchment area inter­cep­ted at the Mohanpura dam site is around 4,000 square km. It has been proposed to irrigate ab­out 35,500 hectares of kharif and 62,250 hec­tares of rabi crop fields during the seasons.

According to reports, the projects in Madh­ya Pradesh can irrigate 170-225 hectares of land, with 1 million cubic metres (mcm) of water. The Mohanpura irrigation project has been de­signed to irrigate 350 hectares of land with 1 mcm of water. In the past two years of the project, the PIN observed for Mohanpura ranges fr­om 490 hectares to 510 hectares, with 1 mcm of water. Rajgarh district has experienced a sudden spurt in crop production since 2020 owing to the commissioning of the Mohanpura right bank project in 2019 and the impounding of water in the Mo­ha­npura dam. The project has enhanced access to irrigation services for farmers and helped in energy conservation. The net energy consumption has been reduced, as has the carbon footprint. The observed pump efficiency is about 80 per cent with a centralised pumping system and energy consumption savings of around 9.88 million kWh.

Kundalia irrigation project

The other major irrigation project between the districts of Rajgarh and Agar-Malwa in Madhya Pra­desh is the Kundalia greenfield irrigation project (also known as the Madhya Pradesh ir­ri­gation efficiency improvement project). The approved cost of the project is Rs 34.48 billion and it proposes to irrigate 419 villages with irrigation technologies such as drips and sprinklers. The construction work of the Kundalia dam was completed in December 2018.

The Kundalia irrigation project is fully automated and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)-enabled. It also has features of manual intervention, whenever necessary. Wi­th learnings from the Mohanpura irrigation project for improved water quality, this project has introduced a provision of pre-filtration at the pump station. It is needed to avoid clogging in the drip and sprinkler systems.

One of the innovations in the project was the adoption of the FIDIC Gold Book rules for the design-build-operate model. It is a simpler model than the build-operate-transfer model as there are no financing documents involved. The model involves defined physical performance KPIs for the contractor to fulfil. These include measuring leakages th­rough SCADA in terms of the amount of water that the project is using and the final amount that is reaching the farms, the energy efficiency factors, the condition of the pumping systems, etc.

In sum

The Madhya Pradesh government is focusing on improving the WUE in line with the National Water Mission of the Government of India. At present, the state has 22 major and 33 medium PIN projects under implementation. The PIN projects have added advantages such as lower energy costs as compared to decentralised po­wer and they are more sustainable as compared to conventional irrigation projects. The state government has faced many cha­ll­enges in terms of irrigation including the active involvement of the local community, uptake of micro irrigation and lack of manpower. It is working towards overcoming these challenges by undertaking new irrigation projects in the state. w

Based on inputs from a presentation by Vikas Rajoria, Project Administrator, Water Resources Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh, and Subhankar Biswas, Project Manager, Mohanpura-Kundalia PMU, Government of Madhya Pradesh, at a recent India Infrastructure conference