ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Of Canals, Tanks and Wells

Different Sources of Irrigation: A Case Study of the Telangana Region by Sanjeeva Reddy, Manak Publications, New Delhi, 1997, pp xxi+258, Rs 280.

 In India, about three-fourths of the population are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood and more than 30 per cent of the gross national product is contributed by agriculture. Although agriculture is the mainstay of the population, only a third of the gross cropped area is under irrigation and the remaining area is still dependent on the vagaries of rainfall. That productivity of irrigated land is considerably more than that of unirrigated one is an accepted fact. Under Indian climatic conditions, the productivity of irrigated land can be increased from four to six times than that of unirrigated land. Despite the green revolution the per hectare yield of (irrigated) rice in India (1.8 tonnes) is much less than that of China (3.7 tonnes) and Japan (5.5 tonnes). However, the production of foodgrains in India increased from 60 million tonnes during the early 1950s to over 190 million tonnes during the mid-1990s. This increase in output has been possible primarily due to increasing irrigation facilities. Though major and medium irrigation projects serve more area under cultivation, the smaller irrigation projects such as tanks and wells also serve a considerable extent of cultivated area. In fact, there has been considerable difference in output per hectare of land under different sources of irrigation such as canals, tanks and wells. This is the core aspect elaborated in the book under review in the context of the Telangana region in Andhra Pradesh.

The book under review, is based on the author’s PhD work. In the introductory chapter, using available surveys the author has brought out an important fact that in Indian agriculture there is little scope for increasing productivity by new agricultural technology and the only alternative strategy for increasing the total output is expending the proportion of irrigable area in the total cropped area. While describing the relative position of different sources of irrigation the author’s contention is that major and medium irrigation projects (such as canals) have better prosperity compared to smaller (tank) irrigation projects. This is because of state intervention and the government’s policy to provide irrigation facilities to larger cropped areas with subsidised irrigation charges. In the major and medium irrigation projects the modernisation process of the canal system by the government helps the farmers to benefit more without spending money or more efforts, which certainly created regional imbalance in agricultural sector especially when compared with the farmers who use other forms of irrigation such as tanks and wells. At the same time, the vagaries of monsoon, poor maintenance of irrigation structures and meagre allocation of funds to tanks have reduced the tank irrigation’s share in the total irrigated area. In both canal and tank irrigation the investment made on the part of beneficiary farmers is very limited. However, in well irrigation the entire cost of wells is borne by the individual farmers. The author stresses the fact that as each source has its own advantages and disadvantages, only the conjunctive use of surface and sub-surface water can make a sustainable pattern of water use in agriculture.

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