Transforming Arid Lands: Rajasthan’s initiatives in irrigation

In Rajasthan, only 36 per cent of the total agricultural area is irrigated and 64 per cent agricultural activities are still dependent on rain. The irrigation initiatives have been crucial in supporting agricultural activities in the state. The state government recently approved Rs 0.37 million for various projects that aim to inc­rease irrigation efficiency and prevent water wastage in canals and dams.

For the development and strengthening of the water system in various areas of the region, financial approval of Rs 10.03 billion has been granted for various works related to ca­nals, water and irrigation projects. The central go­vernment has also announced that it will launch a digital crop survey this kharif season in Rajasthan.

The Rajasthan Micro Irrigation Mission has been a significant step towards providing sustainable irrigation solutions to farmers. Com­po­nents such as “Har Khet Ko Pani” and “Per Drop More Crop” (PDMC) specifically aim to reduce overconsumption of water at the farm level to maximise productivity through micro-irrigation technologies such as drip and sprinkler irrigation systems. This component is meant to facilitate investment in irrigation facilities and the de­velopment of smart irrigation and other technologies related to precision agriculture.

The micro irrigation mission is one such initiative to improve the agricultural sector’s performance. Micro-irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler help in overcoming the chall­e­nge of water shortage while improving crop yield.

Rajasthan Micro Irrigation Mission

The Micro Irrigation Mission was launched by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, Mi­nistry of Agriculture, in 2006 as a centrally sponsored scheme on a national level. In 2010, it was rechristened as the National Mission on Micro Irrigation (NMMI). Following this, many states launched state-level micro-irrigation missions. Launched in 2022, the Rajasthan Micro Irrigation Mission aims to provide financial assistance to farmers for the installation of micro-irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation systems. Under the mission, the government provides subsidy ranging between 50 per cent and 90 per cent to farmers, depending on the type of crop and the farmer category. The state government gives a 70 per cent subsidy to farmers on a “first come first served” basis for installing a drip irrigation system on a maximum of up to 5 hectares of field. Small and marginal farmers, women farmers, and Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe farmers are entitled to an additional 5 per cent subsidy.

The mission objective is to cover around 500,000 hectares of agricultural land and provide irrigation to around 1.6 million farmers. So far, over 0.5 million hectares of land has been covered, benefiting over 0.2 million farmers. Recently, Rajasthan also approved Rs 4.63 billion to strengthen micro-irrigation.  It is expected that the mission will help 50,000 farmers construct farm ponds in the next two years. The government proposes to spend over Rs 2.6 billion in 2023. About Rs 27 billion has been allocated under the mission, this includes a provision of Rs 17.05 billion for irrigation via drip/sprinkler to over 0.4 million farmers, and a 20,000 km irrigation pipeline worth Rs 1 billion.

Other initiatives

  • Community-based water harvesting: This initiative aims to involve the community in the water harvesting process. The government pro­vides financial assistance to the community for the construction of water harvesting str­uctures. The community is responsible for the maintenance of these structures. The initiative has been successful in promoting comm­unity participation in water conservation and management.
  • Watershed development: Rajasthan has implemented several watershed development projects to improve water availability and soil health in arid regions. The projects involve the construction of check dams, contour bunding and afforestation, and help in improving the water table and the fertility of the soil.
  • Participatory Irrigation Management: Parti­ci­patory Irrigation Management is an initiative that involves the farmers in the irrigation management process. The initiative aims to promote the participation of the farmers in the decision-making process related to irrigation. The government provides financial assistance to the farmers for the construction and maintenance of irrigation systems. The initiative has been successful in promoting the efficient use of water and improving the agricultural productivity of the state.

Focus on technology

Given the growing relevance of digitalisation in all sectors, the irrigation sector too stands to ga­in from appropriate processing of the wide volume of data. To this end, the government has la­u­n­ched the Digital Agriculture Mission 2021-2025 to provide an impetus to digital technology in agriculture. This mission will focus on deploying AI, geographic information system technology and remote sensing in the agricultural sector.