Taking a formidable step towards water conservation, Karnataka, which has the country’s second largest extent of drought-prone land, is set to make drip irrigation mandatory in all the irrigation command areas from February 2015. The government is getting ready to install drip irrigation system in the fields of seven lakh growers in a phased manner in the next three years, involving a cost of Rs. 4,500 crore.
By making the growers of water-guzzling crops such as sugarcane to switch over to drip irrigation, the State plans to conserve an estimated 186 tmcft of water (roughly equal to four times the storage capacity of the Krishnaraja Sagar) besides saving energy worth Rs. 400 crore that is being used to pump water in some areas, according to Water Resources Minister M.B. Patil.
At a press conference here on Tuesday, the Minister said the current sugarcane cultivation consumed 250 to 330 tmcft of water a year. Besides saving water, the drip irrigation method, which would also have provision for fertigation system for supplying liquid manure, would help increase the yield from the present average of 35 tonnes an acre to 68 tonnes, he said. Such an increase in yield would bring an additional income of Rs. 7,200 crore to growers besides helping sugar factories to generate 1,200 MW of additional energy through co-generation, he said.
The government is in the process of finalising a business model for installation of drip irrigation system, which would have a tripartite agreement with farmers, government and sugar factories, he said.
While it would cost Rs. 40,000 to install drip irrigation system in an acre of sugarcane field, the government would provide a subsidy of Rs. 10,000 and sugar factories have agreed to contribute Rs. 5,000. Efforts were on to get another Rs. 5,000 from corporate social responsibility funds so that the growers would have to contribute only 50 per cent of the cost, the Minister said.
He said the government was also considering bringing paddy under drip irrigation, tentatively from June next.
State to initiate world’s biggest micro irrigation project
Karnataka is set to embark upon what is said to be the world’s biggest micro irrigation project with the proposal to bring seven lakh hectares of land in various lift irrigation schemes under drip and other micro irrigation systems, according Mr. Patil.
Presently, the world’s largest micro irrigation project was the one taken up in South Africa on two lakh acres of land, he said. He told reporters here that most of the areas proposed to be brought under the micro irrigation system were in drought-prone districts such as Kalaburagi, Bagalkot, Vijayapura, Raichur, Koppal, Gadag, Chitradurga and Haveri.
Plans were afoot to set up an agro industrial corridor in this belt by holding an exclusive global investors’ meet to take advantage of the likely increase in agricultural yield due to the micro irrigation system, the Minister said.