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'Jalayagnam' and Bridging Regional Disparities

Despite huge investments and numerous irrigation projects, Andhra Pradesh continues to face water scarcity, which results in regional disparities and political turmoil. Therefore, the government's irrigation policies should focus on alternatives for strengthening the resource base and enhancing the livelihoods in the fragile resource areas. This approach would provide the much-needed stability to the agriculture sector and minimise agrarian distress in these regions.

‘Jalayagnam’ and Bridging Regional Disparities

Irrigation Development and Distribution in Andhra Pradesh

Despite huge investments and numerous irrigation projects, Andhra Pradesh continues to face water scarcity, which results in regional disparities and political turmoil. Therefore, the government’s irrigation policies should focus on alternatives for strengthening the resource base and enhancing the livelihoods in the fragile resource areas. This approach would provide the much-needed stability to the agriculture sector and minimise agrarian distress in these regions.


I Introduction

rrigation consumes more than 70 per cent of the water utilised and continues to face shortages in quality as well as quantity terms. Water scarcity is resulting in regional inequalities and political turmoil. In other words, water, especially irrigation, has become the great divider across the communities and regions. Though genuine natural or environmental factors explain such a division, a policy-induced mismanagement of water is at the core of the water stress and conflicts. Of late, regional disparities in irrigation development are attracting attention at the political as well as policy levels. A case in point is Andhra Pradesh where distorted irrigation development has been central to the recent separatist movement in the state. In response, the new government has embarked on a massive irrigation development programme in the name of ‘Jalayagnam’ with an estimated cost of Rs 93,078 crore, of which Rs 46,000 crore for the 32 ongoing projects, Rs 20,078 crore for eight pending projects and Rs 27,000 crore for the four proposed projects. All these projects are expected to increase the gross area under irrigation from 44 per cent (57.97 lakh ha) to 90 per cent (117.55 lakh ha) with their completion through utilising the hitherto unutilised water in the state.1

Of the Rs 46,000 crore on the ongoing project works worth of Rs 30,000 crore have already been initiated. A lion’s share of these investments is expected to be in the presently less irrigated regions of Telangana and Rayalaseema (Rs 20,812 crore). The majority of projects are expected to be completed by 2008-09, as per the state government’s plans. The feasibility of translating these investments into tangible benefits (area under irrigation) in the long run calls for a critical validation of the approach. On the other hand, it would be interesting to examine the situation, if all the proposals and investments were to be carried out in a time frame. This paper examines the future scenario of regional distribution of irrigation in AP in the light of the past and present scenarios. Besides, the feasibility of some of the proposals is also reviewed.

Irrigation development or disparities are always viewed in a relative sense. Irrigation in a region is relatively developed or backward due to geographical/natural conditions and historical reasons. While policy initiatives can help correct these disparities to some extent, bringing a parity between the regions through any means, is a difficult task, as the efforts are needed to upset the geographical and natural conditions. High levels of irrigation are often associated with high rainfall aggravating the problems of water scarcity and environmental degradation.2 The result is an imbalance in the distribution of and access to water resources across regions.

On the other hand, regional development can be taken up in an absolute sense through appropriate policy initiatives. In the case of irrigation development, it is envisaged that at least a third of the net sown area should be provided with protective irrigation in order to make agriculture sustainable [GoI 1976]. Therefore, in the context of agricultural development, the first priority should be to bring at least 33 per cent of area under irrigation. While it is absolutely necessary to apply this principle at the household level to ensure the livelihoods of the communities, this paper focuses at the feasibility of achieving this at the regional and sub-regional (district) levels.

This paper is based on the data obtained from various secondary sources like statistical abstracts, season and crop reports and the data published by the irrigation department. The historical data for the past 40 years are obtained from the statistical abstracts and season and crop reports. The data pertaining to the ongoing, pending and proposed irrigation projects in various categories and the expected area to be brought under irrigation are obtained from the irrigation department. The data are provided on a project basis with an indication of districts covered. We tried to distribute the area evenly in the case of projects that cover more than one district. This may result in an overestimation of area underirrigation in some districts and an underestimation in other districts but tends to nullify at the regional and state levels.

II Irrigation Development and Distribution in AP

Past and Present

Historically, the major sources of irrigation in AP are tanks, canals and wells in the same order of importance. Till the early 1970s, tanks were the dominant sources of irrigation in the Telangana and Rayalaseema regions, while, canals were the main

Economic and Political Weekly November 4, 2006 source in the coastal Andhra region (Table 1). After the 1970s, well irrigation emerged as a major source in Telangana and Rayalaseema regions. Over the period of four decades the proportion of area under irrigation in the state has gone up from 27 per cent in 1963 to 40 per cent in 2002. The growth in the area under irrigation is more in the Telangana region (from 21 to 37 per cent between 1963 and 2002) when compared to the coastal and Rayalaseema regions, resulting in substantial decrease in regional disparities.3 During this period the intra-regional disparities have also come down in all the three regions (Table 1).

Across the sources, the area under canals increased by three percentage points in coastal as well as Telangana regions, between 1963 and 2002. The coastal region experienced a 4 per cent decline in the area under canals between 1993 and 2002, which could be due to the severe scarcity of water in the major systems during the period ending 2002. After taking this into account, the increase in area under canal is more in the coastal region between 1963 and 1983 and stagnated after 1983. The picture is of stagnation or marginal improvement in the case of Rayalaseema. Inter as well as intra-regional disparities in area under canals have come down substantially over the period of 40 years.4 While tank irrigation declined in all the regions, well irrigation gained more in Telangana comparatively in other regions. The increase in well irrigation is the main reason for the overall decline in disparities in the state.

Along with the area under irrigation, the composition of irrigation has changed over the period especially in the recent years. The proportion of the area under canal and tank irrigation has declined while the importance of well irrigation has gone up substantially (Table 2). Across the regions, Telangana and Rayalaseema have experienced drastic shifts in the composition of irrigation. By 1980s well irrigation had become the dominant source of irrigation replacing tank irrigation in Telangana and Rayalaseema regions. Though canal irrigation still dominates in the coastal region, well irrigation has replaced tank irrigation in second place. The relative shares of the three important sources in the net irrigated area indicate that well irrigation in Telangana has gone up from 12 to 64 per cent against an increase of four percentage points, i e, from 14 to 18 per cent, in the case of canal irrigation (Table 2). Even the coastal region recorded a fourfold increase in the area under wells, while area under canals has gone up from 46 to 55 per cent. The proportion of area under canals remained same at 19 per cent in Rayalaseema but it experienced an increase in well irrigation by almost three times.

Though well irrigation is more productive than the other two sources of irrigation, there is a major difference in terms of financial implications. The state is the sole owner and takes the responsibility of water resources development and management, but its role is limited to surface systems such as canals and tanks only and thus leaving the subsurface systems, well irrigation, to private development and management. Even with in the surface systems canal irrigation has been the most favoured sector to the neglect of tanks (Table 3). During the post-independence period, 87 per cent of the total irrigation expenditure was on major and medium irrigation projects creating 74 per cent of the total irrigation potential thus far created. On the other hand, minor irrigation attracted only 13 per cent of the expenditure creating 26 per cent of the potential. This bias is despite the fact that per hectare costs of creating potential in minor systems are less than half that of major systems.5 However, this is not to argue that large systems can substitute the small systems. It is only to highlight how minor irrigation is neglected in the state. Geographically, while canal irrigation dominates the high rainfall regions, minor irrigation such as tanks and wells are the main

Table 1: Percentage Area under Irrigation (Net Irrigated Area/Net Sown Area) across Regions and Sources in Andhra Pradesh

Region Triennium Triennium Triennium Triennium Triennium Ending Ending Ending Ending Ending 1963 1973 1983 1993 2002 Avg CV Avg CV Avg CV Avg CV Avg CV

Canal Coastal 27 81 31 68 35 55 34 49 30 49 Rayalaseema 4 101 5 70 6 64 5 71 4 74 Telangana 4 178 4 123 6 131 7 99 7 105 AP 12120 13 87 16 83 16 73 1476

Tank Coastal 14 8013 92 12 88 11 92 996 Rayalaseema 6 124 5 131 4 103 3 128 2 125 Telangana 12 52 6 63 9 60 7 74 582 AP 11858 95 9 84 798 6101

Well Coastal 3 76 5 96 6107 9 93 12 79 Rayalaseema 5 109 7 98 8 92 12 70 16 77 Telangana 3 67 4 78 7 55 17 66 23 58 AP 484 6 91 7 85 13 76 17 71

Total Coastal 45 59 50 48 55 32 57 31 54 26 Rayalaseema 15 77 17 61 19 51 21 44 23 55 Telangana 21 60 16 66 23 54 32 57 37 51 AP 27 6528 58 33 46 37 44 4044

Notes: Avg = Average, CV = Coefficient of variation.

Table 2: Source-wise Area Irrigated (Area Irrigated by Source/ Net Irrigated Area) across Regions of Andhra Pradesh

(Per cent)

Canal Tank Well Triennium Coa-R Seema Telan-Coa-R Seema Telan-Coa-R Seema Telan-Ending stal gana stal gana stal gana

1963 46 19 14 24 32 49 05 24 12 1973 62 29 27 26 29 39 09 37 26 1983 63 31 27 23 21 37 12 44 32 1993 60 25 21 19 15 20 16 57 54 2002 55 19 18 17 09 15 22 69 64

Source: Statistical Abstract of Andhra Pradesh (various issues).

Table 3: Costs of Irrigation Development: Big vs Small Projects

Irrigation potential (IP) created 50.15 lakh hectares IP created before 1950 27 lakh hectares New IP created after 1950 23 lakh hectares New IP created under major

and medium projects 17 lakh hectares (74 per cent of the total) New IP created under minor projects (including PR) 6 lakh hectares (26 per cent of the total) No of schemes under major

and medium irrigation 157 No of schemes under minor irrigation 14,253 No of schemes under PR department 70,474 Amount spent since 1950 up to 2000 Rs 10,087.65 crore On major irrigation Rs 8736.68 crore (87 per cent of

the total) On minor irrigation including PR schemes Rs 1350.87 crore (13 per cent of the total) Cost per hectare of potential in M and

M projects Rs 51,392 Cost per hectare of potential in minor projects Rs 22, 514 Amount spent per year per scheme on

M and M projects Rs 112 lakh Amount per year per scheme on minor projectsRs 14,000 Amount spent per year per scheme

on PR projects Rs 1,000

Source: Note on Irrigation Sector in Andhra Pradesh, 1999, as quoted in NeeTi Samakhya (2003).

sources of irrigation in the low rainfall regions. Most of the tanks are located in the fragile resource regions, where groundwater is the major source of irrigation. The inter-linkages between these two sources coupled with the policy neglect have resulted in ecological problems, equity and sustainability of water resources.

In the absence of replenishing mechanisms, well irrigation becomes uncertain. Moreover, location specificity of the resource makes it concentrated in limited geographic boundaries. Despite the increase in area under irrigation, especially under wells, both Telangana and Rayalaseema regions have a majority of their districts with less than 33 per cent of area under irrigation (Table 4). The uncertainty in the availability of irrigation is reflected in the year-to-year changes in number of districts falling in this category over the years. On the other hand, in the coastal region only one district (Prakasam) was consistently in this category till 1983. This makes agriculture unsustainable in most of the districts in these regions.

The policy bias against minor irrigation continues though maintaining tank systems makes ecological as well as economic sense [Reddy 2004). While well irrigation is a remunerative option in the short run, its long-run sustainability is critically linked with replenishing mechanisms like tanks, watersheds, rainfall pattern, etc. Tank irrigation and well irrigation are treated as substitutes while the former compliments the latter. Perpetuation of these trends would be a recipe for ecological disaster. The signs of such ecological problems are already evident in a drying up of wells and well failure. Well failure has become a common phenomenon in the recent years, especially in the droughtprone regions. Perpetuation of these trends would adversely affect well irrigation. These impacts are visible in all the regions in terms of well yields [Reddy 2003].

Leaving groundwater exploitation to the private investments coupled with the absence of any effective regulatory mechanisms

Table 5: Ultimate Irrigation Potential and Achievement by Source in Andhra Pradesh

(Area in ‘000 ha)

Major and Medium Minor

1 Ultimate potential 5000.00 (5000) 6260.00 (4200)
2 Potential created till March 1992 2999.00 2877.34
3 Potential created till March 1997 3045.00 2901.87
4 Per cent of potential created to ultimate 60.90 46.36
5 Actual achievement till March 1997 2883.80 2687.16
6 Per cent achieved to the ultimate potential 57.68 42.93
7 Number of ongoing projects 2 8 2 1
8 Number of proposed projects 4 8 3 4

Note: Figures in brackets are estimated potential during the Eighth Plan.

Source: Planning Commission, Ninth Five-Year Plan, 1997-2002, Government of India. Government of Andhra Pradesh, Irrigation and CADA department, Strategy Paper on Irrigation, 2001.

has resulted in severe economic and ecological stress in the regions of Telangana and Rayalaseema that house most of the drought-prone districts. This in turn is resulting in not only the economic inequalities, but also the ecological divide. For, the neglect of resource-poor regions in the provision of protective irrigation is further weakening their fragility. Even the recent policies in water management fail to take the needs of these regions into account. For instance, groundwater, the single most important source of irrigation, is totally left out of the purview of the water user association legislation. There are no efforts to integrate well and tank irrigation at the policy level.

III Irrigation Development and Distribution: Future

The policy bias against the rainfed regions is not specific to Andhra Pradesh, as it is observed across the country. Only during the 1980s the need for addressing the problems of dryland agriculture was recognised at the policy level. It received a flip during 1990s with the realisation that development of these regions holds the key for future food security. As far as irrigation development is concerned, the attempt is to exploit the potential water resources by all means. Hitherto irrigation development was guided by economic rationality, as most of the existing projects are located at places that are technically convenient and cost effective. Further development would be increasingly unfavourable, technically as well as economically. Despite the unfavourable conditions, there is an urgent need for providing protective irrigation6 to these regions in order to make agriculture viable and check the resource degradation. The irrigation development in these regions becomes imminent even from the sociopolitical point of view, as the communities from these regions are increasingly becoming articulate in making their demands.7 How far the initiatives in irrigation development in these regions would address the distributional issues, in relative as well as absolute sense, is examined in this section.

As per the Ninth Five-Year Plan, the ultimate irrigation potential in AP is estimated between 92 lakh hectares and 112 lakh hectares, almost equally divided between major and medium and minor sources (Table 5).8 Of this about 58 per cent of the major and medium sources and 43 per cent of the minor sources potential was realised till 1997 March.9 Ongoing 49 projects at various stages of completion coupled with 82 proposed projects are expected to exploit this potential fully in the long run (Appendix). Once these projects are completed, the scenario of irrigation distribution would be different. The state government is keen to complete all the ongoing projects by 2008 and complete all

Table 4: Number of Districts with less than One-Third of Their Area under Irrigation across Regions
Region Triennium Triennium Ending 1963 Ending 1973 Coastal 1 (Guntur) 1 (Prakasam) Rayalaseema 2 (Anantapur 4 (Anantapur, and Kurnool) Kurnool, Cuddapah and Chittoor) Telangana 4 (Medak, 8 (Nizamabad, Medak, Mahabubnagar, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Khammam Warangal, Khammam, and Adilabad) Karimnagar and Adilabad) AP 8 1 3 Triennium Triennium Ending 1983 Ending 1993 1 (Prakasam) 0 4 (Anantapur 4 (Anantapur, Kurnool, Kurnool,Cuddapah Cuddapah and Chittoor) and Chittoor) 7 (Rangareddy, Medak, 4 (Rangareddy, Medak, Mahabubnagar, Mahabubnagar Nalgonda, Warangal, and Adilabad) Khammam and Adilabad) 1 2 8 Triennium Ending 2002 0 2 (Anantapur, and Kurnool) 4 (Rangareddy, Medak, Mahabubnagar and Adilabad) 6
Economic and Political Weekly November 4, 2006 4615

the proposed projects by 2010 [GoAP 2006]. Though the state is trying to generate the required financial allocations,10 it is hard to visualise that the projects can be completed by 2010 given the history of irrigation development in the state and the country. Therefore, we assume that the ongoing projects would be completed by the year 2010 and the proposed projects would be completed by the year 2020. Along with the canal irrigation, the unexploited potential of groundwater and the existing tanks are also included in order to arrive at the ultimate achievable area under irrigation across the districts.

It is estimated that a total of about 30 lakh hectares can be added to the existing area under irrigation in AP with the help of ongoing, proposed projects and another 20 lakh hectares through well and tank systems (Table 6). This would mean that the total area under irrigation in the state would be about 73 lakh hectares when all the ongoing and proposed irrigation projects are completed. When the irrigation potential from wells and tanks are included (93 lakh hectares) it becomes close to the ultimate irrigation potential of 92-112 lakh hectares as per the Eighth and Nineth Plan estimates (Table 5). When the ongoing projects are completed the total irrigation potential exploited in the state would range between 45 and 55 per cent depending on the estimated potential (Eighth and Ninth Plan) taken into account. The expected potential exploited would range between 64 and 78 per cent when all the proposed projects are completed.11 While the estimated costs of achieving these levels of irrigation are Rs 93,078 crore, a rough estimate of the expected benefits from these investments indicates the states GDP would go up by 1.9 per cent [GoAP 2006].

Of the additional irrigation, canals will account for 58 per cent and the rest tanks and wells. Of the expected potential under canals only 28 per cent will materialise with the ongoing projects. About 42 per cent of the potential created through the ongoing projects will be in the coastal region followed by Telangana (31 per cent) and Rayalaseema (27 per cent) regions. This indicates that completion of all the ongoing projects would further aggravate the regional inequalities. This could be due to the reason that coastal region seems to provide favourable sites for irrigation projects, as the ongoing projects are mostly finalised on economic rationality. In the case of proposed projects, 52 per cent of the expected potential will be in the Telangana region followed by coastal (29 per cent) and Rayalaseema regions. In the case of tanks and wells, the coastal region has a larger share in the unexploited potential as Telangana and Rayalaseema are already reaching saturation points. Besides, the composition of irrigation would reverse in the post-completion scenario. Canal irrigation would become the single largest source of irrigation in Telangana and Rayalaseema regions. This appears unbelievable but not impossible provided that these proposed projects materialise. This scenario is like a “dream coming true” and “too good to believe”. On the whole, even after completing all the ongoing and proposed projects the regional disparities are likely to come down only marginally. Partly this could be due to the reason that in the case of some projects the potential created spills over district and regional boundaries, which we are not able to delineate exactly. However, this problem could be more in terms of intraregional variations rather than inter-regional variations.

In terms of the proportion of area under irrigation across the districts, some of the districts and regions get more than 100 per cent of their net sown area under irrigation (Table 7). Though this could be due to the poor delineation of actual benefits between the districts, it raises doubts on the feasibility of the proposed projects in creating the expected irrigation potential. Moreover, the information on feasible wells and the future area is dynamic and keeps changing, depending on the extraction levels and replenishing mechanisms in a particular zone. The number of feasible wells and the area irrigated per well was estimated by the Groundwater Estimation Committee (GEC) in 1997 and projections are made for the year 2000 on the basis of these estimates [GoAP 2000]. Note that per well yields could change rapidly and vary across the regions with rainfall and the status of surface water bodies. Therefore, scenario-II becoming a reality could be a long shot and hence scenario-I could be a feasible option, though achieving percentage AI- 2020 of scenario-I could be difficult though not impossible. For, some of the ongoing projects are yet to receive the approval from the Planning Commission for one reason or the other. Only five of the 21 major and medium projects under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme received full clearance and the rest are pending approval [GoAP 2006].

As per scenario-I, Andhra Pradesh would bring about 52 per cent of its net sown area under irrigation by 2010 when all the ongoing projects are completed. This figure would go up to 73 per

Table 6: Distribution of Area under Irrigation across the Districts by the Years 2010 and 2020

(Area in hectares)

District NIA Ongoing Pro-Future Future NIA-NIA-2002 posed Total Wells+ 2010 2020 Canal Tank*

Srikakulam 180583 37261 23719 60981 131426 349270 372989 Vizianagaram 131223 13228 90657 103885 130634 275085 365742 Visakhapatnam 108551 22410 4721 27131 107613 238573 243294 East Godavari 276385 15624 150525 166149 169147 461155 611681 West Godavari 295991 93801 152039 245840 214442 604234 756273 Krishna 313846 224 14148 14372 62943 377012 391161 Guntur 369546 0 0 0 136317 505863 505863 Prakasam 199329 1048 102550 103598 93140 293518 396067 Nellore 233542 161936 84371 246307 130712 526190 610561 Coastal 2108996 345530 622731 968261 1176373 3630900 4253631 Average 234333 38392 69192 107585 130708 403433 472626 CV 37143 88 87 33 31 34 Kurnool 170771 149734 16187 165921 64735 385240 401428 Anantapur 142046 27042 70483 97524 58201 227289 297771 Cuddapah 140792 38445 173408 211853 62208 241445 414853 Chittoor 170675 5151 138520 143672 98101 273928 412448 Rayalaseema 624284 220372 398598 618970 283246 1127902 1526500 Average 156071 55093 99650 154743 70812 281976 381625 CV 11117 70 31 26 25 15 Rangareddy 75260 0 0 0 37019 112279 112279 Nizamabad 171697 22258 62558 84816 49026 242981 305539 Medak 135742 0 0 0 76842 212584 212584 Mahabubnagar 169566 41359 264260 305619 82771 293696 557956 Nalgonda 209191 131523 52508 184031 98458 439172 491680 Warangal 298881 22258 73686 95944 72502 393640 467327 Khammam 182125 27401 300648 328050 95987 305514 606162 Karimnagar 238304 0 231211 231211 71557 309861 541072 Adilabad 78073 10117 118796 128913 50235 138425 257221 Telangana 1558839 254916 1103668 1358584 634398 2448153 3551820 Average 173204 28324 122630 150954 70489 272017 394647 CV 42146 93 80 30 40 45 Andhra

Pradesh 4292119 820818 2124997 2945815 2094017 7206954 9331951 Average 195096 37310 96591 133901 95183 327589 424180 CV 40134 91 74 45 38 36

Notes: NIA = Net irrigated area. * = Future area under tank is taken from the data on defunct tanks and the command area under them. Future area under wells is estimated using the data on the number of feasible wells in each district and the average area per well in each district.

Source: Compiled from the data published in WALAMTARI, 2004.

cent by 2020 provided all the proposed projects materialise. All the regions cross the threshold level of attaining irrigation to onethird of their net sown area. But, intra-regional disparities are likely to increase, as some districts tend to benefit more from the investments. This is reflected in the overall variations across the districts, which are higher (48-47 per cent) in 2010 and 2020 when compared to 2002 (44 per cent). Therefore, the disparities at the district level would increase, even after exploiting all the potential under canals. In other words, the existing regional disparities in irrigation development are not manifested in a deliberate neglect of specific regions, rather they arise of natural and geographic advantages/disadvantages of respective regions. This, however, could have been avoided to some extent, if irrigation development was not purely based on economic rationality or technical feasibility of the projects. In this context, focusing on providing the threshold level of protective irrigation (33 per cent of the net sown area) would have addressed the agrarian distress in these regions. This needs to be addressed at the district level rather than at the regional level. As the estimates of potential area to be brought under irrigation in 2020 under scenario-I show, though all the three regions cross the threshold level of irrigation, some of the districts continue to remain below this level. These are Anantapur in Rayalaseema and Rangareddy and Medak in Telangana. While targeting to implement the ongoing and proposed projects, these districts need a special attention. Special efforts are needed to divert or develop water resources in these districts. Though these efforts are going to be costly, the costs would be marginal when compared to that of implementing the proposed projects. Techincal feasibility and sustainability assumes paramount importance while economic feasibility12 becomes secondary in implementing most of the proposed projects.

IV Bridging the Disparities: Costs and Constraints

As mentioned earlier, the main reason for the regional disparities in irrigation development are natural, economic and technical in nature rather than purely political. The present thinking is to overcome the natural and technical hurdles irrespective of economic costs. The main aim of the proposed projects is the utilisation of unutilised Godavari waters (762 TMC). Utilising these waters is a daunting task technically, as the water has to be supplied to about 150-600 metres above the sea level in order to reach the fields even after constructing the reservoirs. For, most of the lands to be irrigated in Telangana are available at 200-650 metres above the sea level. This would mean that irrigation is possible only through lift irrigation from the reservoirs. It is estimated that the costs of energy would be around Rs 25,000 per hectare for kharif-wet crops [Rao 2003]. These costs are over and above the costs of providing irrigation through reservoirs. Added to this are the rehabilitation costs and environmental mitigation costs. The state government estimated that Rs 93,0780 crore is required to complete the ongoing, pending and proposed projects, i e, Rs 1,27,000 per hectare. Besides, the three lagging districts of Anantapur, Rangareddy and Medak need allocations in order to reach the threshold levels of irrigation. At the given level of average costs, Anantapur requires an additional allocation of Rs 1,600 crore in order to meet the additional requirement of above one lakh hectares, while Rangareddy and Medak districts require above Rs 300 and Rs 200 crore respectively. These allocations need to be at the top of the priority list. These investments need not be in the form of water diversion, they should go towards strengthening the resource base and improving the land productivity through systematic implementation of soil and water conservation (watershed) programmes, improving the water use efficiency through promotion of new technologies and cultivars, provision of alternative livelihood opportunities in animal husbandry, horticulture, etc.

More importantly, priority should be given to least irrigated areas/districts in order to reduce agriculture distress even in the short run. As mentioned earlier most of the ongoing projects are going to benefit the already developed coastal region. The new projects need to be initiated in the Telangana and Rayalaseema regions on a fast track, though most of the projects are medium or long-term requiring 10-20 years. The state government’s approach of completing them in five years appears to be too ambitious and unrealistic.13 Even within the regions, districts that need attention in the medium and long run should be taken up on priority basis. In the absence of proposed projects in these districts alternative investments, as mentioned above, should be

Table 7: Distribution of Percentage of Area Irrigated across theDistricts by the Years 2010 and 2020

(Area in hectares)

Scenario-I Scenario-II District Percentage Percentage Percentage Percentage Percentage AI-2002 AI-2010 AI-2020 AI-2010 AI-2020

Srikakulam 58 70 77 100 100 Vizianagaram 41 45 73 85 100 Visakhapatnam 33 40 42 73 75 East Godavari 64 68 100 100 100 West Godavari 63 83 100 100 100 Krishna 62 63 65 75 78 Guntur 58 58 58 79 79 Prakasam 35 36 54 52 71 Nellore 72 100 100 100 100 Coastal average 54 65 82 97 100 CV 2641 42 35 37 Kurnool 20 37 39 45 47 Anantapur 14 16 23 22 29 Cuddapah 36 46 91 62 100 Chittoor 40 41 74 65 97 Rayalaseema

average 23 35 57 49 70 CV 4637 55 40 54 Rangareddy 26 26 26 39 39 Nizamabad 67 76 100 95 100 Medak 30 30 30 47 47 Mahabubnagar 20 25 56 35 66 Nalgonda 40 65 74 83 93 Warangal 59 64 78 78 92 Khammam 42 48 100 70 100 Karimnagar 61 61 100 79 100 Adilabad 15 17 39 26 48 Telangana average 37 46 71 61 87 CV 4747 51 40 45 Andhra Pradesh

average 40 52 73 74 95 CV 4448 47 46 45

Note: Scenario-I = (Net area irrigated in 2002 + ongoing projects

+ proposed projects)/net sown area, Scenario-II = (Net area irrigated in 2002 + ongoing projects + proposed projects + future area under tanks and wells)/net sown area when ongoing and proposed projects are completed. Some districts and regions have shown above 100 per cent area under irrigation, due to lack of clarity in the actual benefits in each district or region. In order to avoid confusion we have rounded off all the above 100 figures to 100 per cent.

Source: Compiled from the data published in WALAMTARI, 2004.

Economic and Political Weekly November 4, 2006 made. For instance, districts like Anantapur and Rangareddy should be accorded highest priority in the short, medium and long runs; Adilabad and Mahabubnagar should be the priority in the short and medium runs; and Medak should be given a priority in the medium run.

Economic costs are no longer a bottleneck, as there is a universal agreement for irrigation development, especially in the backward areas, but technical feasibility could be a major constraint. For instance, it is estimated that the power requirement for irrigating one hectare of kharif crop is about 8,810 units [Rao 2003]. This kind of power requirement can only be met through establishing a separate hydel power project. This is possible through construction of four barrages and three reservoirs on Godavary (ibid). Therefore, hydel power projects should be integrated into the overall scheme of irrigation development. However, sustaining the irrigation projects is still a major concern due to the high running costs of irrigation. Generation of hydel power requires working capital. Farmers need to pay more per acre of irrigation, even after the government absorbs the capital costs of hydel power generation. This brings us back to the longstanding issue of irrigation water pricing on cost basis. The longrun sustainability of these projects would be critically linked to the pricing of water. Unless farmers are convinced and willing to foot the bill, it would be difficult to sustain the projects. This needs to be inculcated from the stage of designing the project. This would be easier provided effective pricing policies are implemented in the already irrigated regions. Pricing of water on volumetric basis in order to cover at least the operation and maintenance costs is necessary for efficient and productive use of water.14

While the efforts of the state government focusing on irrigation development to address the agrarian/rural distress are laudable, the feasibility of translating these investments into benefits (area irrigated), making the investments productive and sustaining the investments in the long run appears dubious in the present scheme of things. Here, we identify three critical issues that need to be addressed in order to make the allocations effective and sustainable. These include: (a) comprehensive water policy; (b) demandside management; and (c) exploring the alternatives.

(a) Comprehensive water policy: Though Andhra Pradesh has some important legislations like Water User Associations (WUA) Act and Water, Land and Trees (WALTA) Act, they do not have a comprehensive water policy. Water policy should prioritise the uses and identify a particular approach like integrated water resource management or river basin or watershed management. In the absence of clarity on the approach, the proposed irrigation development in the state appears ad hoc. It only talks about irrigation development mainly through constructing major and medium projects. The proposals neither have plans on how to manage the created potential nor have involved the people in the process. The role and involvement of WUAs in water management is a showpiece at best [Reddy and Reddy 2005]. No attempts are made to strengthen them so that they can take the full responsibility of water management. The importance of water management is reflected in the extent of area that presently needs stabilisation, which accounts for more than 30 per cent of the irrigation potential created so far. Similarly, the groundwater, which is the single largest source of irrigation, is totally left to private initiatives resulting in inequity and degradation of the resource. The existing WALTA Act is inappropriate and ineffective in this regard. Efficient and sustainable water management calls for demand-side management practices that are totally missing in the present approach.

(b) Demand management: The demand management involves increased water use efficiency, recycling, promotion of water saving technologies, etc. Though supply is a major constraint in many cases, the major problem that leads to water shortages is the wastages through distributional and transmission losses. The demand management is the most cost-effective option for enhancing water availability through promotion of water use efficiency. Important strategies or measures in this regard include: (a) market/pricing/economic measures; (b) technologies; and (c) institutions. Note that these strategies may not be effective on their own and hence calls for judicious mix of these measures.

The present approach of state government is that it is relying entirely on traditional engineering approach of supply creation to the neglect of demand management. Artificially kept low water prices fail to provide any incentive to improve the systems, technically or institutionally, as the economics of transaction costs go against it. The present prices cover less than 10 per cent of the operation and maintenance costs of irrigation supply. There is no rationale for continuing these subsidies, as these subsidies go against benefiting the poor at whom these subsidies are targeted. The cost of irrigation goes up substantially with proposed projects. The costs would be prohibitive in the districts where water transfers from distance are planned. Adopting the full cost recovery method would asking too much from these poor regions, while the endowed regions enjoy the benefits at low due to their natural advantages. One option is cross subsidise (tax transfers) these farmers by collecting irrigation charges from the endowed regions, which are enjoying the fruits of irrigation for decades. Even at high costs these regions continue to be at the mercy of rain gods as they receive water when upstream demands are met. Second option is to develop alternative approaches like watershed development to protect and enhance the livelihoods in these regions.

Technological options can go a long way in enhancing the water use efficiency and water security in the fragile environments. It is estimated that sprinkler and drip systems can save 40-60 of water used for crops, apart from being energy efficient and productive15 [Narayanamurty 2003]. Similarly, new methods of paddy cultivation such as SRI paddy can reduce water use by 40-50 per cent without affecting the yields [Reddy et al 2005]. These technologies and practices can double the water use efficiency and double the area under irrigation. These technologies and practices need to be promoted with proper mix of instruments such as economic, institutional, educational, extension network, etc. For example, the programme of distributing subsidised sprinkler and drip irrigation systems has not proved to be effective.

(c) Exploring alternatives: The feasibility of major and medium projects is questionable in all situations. The approach of the state is to expand the supply base through creating major and medium reservoirs. These projects not only result in huge environmental and human costs their viability in the long run is doubtful in the absence of environmental management, economic instrument and institutional arrangements. Experts have suggested a number of alternatives for the utilisation of Godavari waters and also for other projects like Pulichintala, which are more environmentfriendly, with least displacement and sustainable manner [Rao 2003]. But these alternatives are neither discussed in public nor reviewed scientifically. The state seems to be believing and following the linear approach of water resource development in mechanical manner. There is a need for bringing in harmony between major, medium and minor sources of surface water on one hand and groundwater on the other. Costs of providing surface irrigation could be prohibitive in some districts, hence need to improve the groundwater resources through rainwater harvesting and conservation.

In this context, the watershed development programme (WDP) has great potential in sustaining the rural livelihoods. It is observed that investment in watershed development is necessary, but not sufficient to enhance the rural livelihoods substantially in the drought-prone regions [Reddy et al 2004]. In order to realise the full potential of watershed development, pro-poor programmes that complement the benefits of WDP need to be introduced. These programmes include: horticultural and dairy development that would benefit from the improved resource conditions like in situ moisture, grazing lands, water bodies, etc. Though some of these activities are being introduced recently, their success is dependent on infrastructure (transport, storage, markets, etc) and credit (institutional finance) support systems apart from a conducive policy environment that is propitious for institutional (collective systems, self-help groups, etc) evolution and development. In the absence of an integrated view on resources-livelihoods-institutions-infrastructure these programmes may not fulfil the objective of sustainable rural livelihoods.

Completing the proposed irrigation projects need to be carried out in a systematic and planned manner rather than venturing in to adhocism. The process is complex in terms of meeting environmental and technical challenges, as most of these projects are located in difficult terrains. The social problems relating to human displacement need to be dealt carefully through evolving effective compensation packages. The hitherto followed cash compensation policies may result in creating an army of displaced people. Project designing should be least damaging to the environment. A number of small projects could substitute for a big one with less environmental and social costs, as suggested in the case of Pulichintala and Polavaram projects. Such options need to be explored before embarking on the large-scale projects.

V Conclusions

Despite huge investments and numerous projects, regional disparities in a relative sense are likely to continue, although at a lower level. In fact, disparities between the regions decline only in the 2020 scenario-I, as they tend to increase in the 2010 scenario-I, i e, when all the ongoing projects are completed. While the disparities between the three broad regions are likely to decline once all the proposed projects are completed, the intraregional disparities would increase in all the three regions by 2020. On the other hand, the ongoing projects would help reducing the intra-regional disparities only in Rayalaseema. The result is that some of the districts may not benefit substantially in relative terms. Therefore, the focus of irrigation development should be in terms of reducing the absolute disparities (achieving the threshold level of area under irrigation) at the district level rather than targeting the broad political regions. Reducing the absolute disparities is feasible in the medium term provided concerted efforts, financial or otherwise, are made in this direction, though the reasons are geographical and natural advantages/ disadvantages of particular regions or districts. There is a need for exploring alternatives for strengthening the resource base and enhancing the livelihoods in these areas. This approach would provide the much-needed stability to agriculture sector and minimise agrarian distress in the fragile resource regions.

The present approach, however, seems to be driving towards spreading the resources thinly over a number of ongoing and proposed projects in a supply-sided manner. This would delay the completion of the projects prolonging the time span of the ongoing projects as well.16 In other words, no project will be completed if too many projects are initiated at the same time. Apart from financial constraints, there are limitations to spend huge amounts effectively on the part of irrigation departments. Therefore, prioritise the projects in terms of regions/districts with less than 33 per cent of their area under irrigation. This approach would not only facilitate speedy implementation, but also address the political concerns. More importantly, stabilising agriculture in these fragile regions is only possible through providing protective irrigation.

Even within the districts, ensuring minimum access to water at the household level is critical for achieving household level food security. Irrigation development in a majority of the droughtprone regions is biased in favour of large and medium farmers. This is mainly due to the dependence on groundwater in these regions. The capital-intensive nature of groundwater extraction makes it privy to a few large farmers. Even the availability of cheap technologies to small and marginal farmers is proving detrimental in event of resource depletion. In the context of watershed development, it was observed that: “In majority of the cases access to groundwater is limited to large and medium farmers. Marginal farmers do not usually have access to groundwater. While in the short run agricultural labourers’ (landed as well as landless) benefit from the watershed programme, farmers,

Appendix Table : Number of Completed, Ongoing and ProposedIrrigation Projects across the Districts in AP

District Completed Ongoing Proposed
Projects Projects Projects
Major Me-Small Major Me-Small Major Me-Small
dium dium dium
Srikakulam 2 1 1 2 0 2 3 1 0 5
Vizianagaram 1 8 1 5 0 1 3 1 2 5
Visakhapatnam 2 4 6 1 1 5 0 0 0
East Godavari 2 1 6 1 4 1 2 0 2
West Godavari 0 2 8 0 4 2 0 1 3
Krishna 2 1 4 0 0 0 2 0 6
Guntur 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Prakasam 0 6 1 2 0 0 1 3 1 4
Nellore 1 1 2 3 0 1 3 2 5
Kurnool 3 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0
Cuddapah 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 2 2
Chittoor 0 8 1 4 0 0 4 0 0 0
Anantapur 1 5 0 0 1 1 0 0 0
Adilabad 1 5 0 0 2 0 2 1 2 0
Nizamabad 1 3 0 2 0 0 4 0 0
Karimnagar 1 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0
Warangal 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
Khammam 1 6 2 0 2 0 4 2 0
Nalgonda 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Rangareddy 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mahabubnagar 1 2 0 1 0 0 3 0 0
Medak 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 2 2 7 4 8 1 1 1 1 7 2 1 2 6 2 2 3 4

Source: Compiled from the data published in WALAMTARI, 2004.

Economic and Political Weekly November 4, 2006 especially those with access to groundwater, accrue the medium and long-term benefits” [Reddy et al 2004]. While canal and tank irrigation is more equitable when compared to groundwater, measures should be taken to ensure some access to groundwater to marginal and small farmers. For, most of the public investments in the form of watershed development, tank renovation may benefit the rich if the access to groundwater is distorted.

Management of the existing systems should be given high priority in the already existing systems, rather than initiating new projects in these regions. The approach of demand management should go in tandem with the supply augmentation in order to make the investments effective and sustainable. Strengthening the existing institutional arrangements like water user associations in terms of devolution of powers and moving towards selfmanagement and cost-based pricing are critical for sustaining the systems. Treating irrigation water as an economic good through volumetric pricing is critical for sustaining the irrigation systems in the long run. This should be initiated in irrigated regions that are reaping the benefits over the past many years. This process is possible only through institutional strengthening. These institutions should inspire and serve as models to the new systems. In the absence of institutional strengthening, we may lose the existing command areas in the process of creating new areas. In order to facilitate volumetric pricing, a provision should be made at the designing stage itself. But, no such attempts are made in the case of new projects, either ongoing or proposed. Though this results in cost escalation marginally in the short run, it would be beneficial in the long run.




[Thanks are due to C H Hanumantha Rao for suggesting me to work on this topic in the beginning and for detailed comments and suggestions on the earlier drafts of this paper. Thanks are due to S Mahendra Dev, V N Reddy, T Hanumantha Rao and D Ramakrishna, for their comments on the earlier drafts of the paper. Thanks are due to to the anonymous referee for constructive comments. Thanks are due to D Mohana Rao for his help in compiling the data. However, the usual disclaimers apply.]

1 Gross dependable yield from all the 40 river basins in the state is estimated at 2,764 TMC at 75 per cent dependability as per the interstate awards. Presently the state is utilising 1,700 TMC [GoAP 2006].

2 The rank correlation coefficient (0.49) is positive and significant.

3 Telangana recorded a growth rate of 3.1 per cent in the percentage of area irrigated as against 0.9 and 0.4 per cent growth in coastal and Rayalaseema regions, respectively. Most of the growth in Telangana took place during the period of 1985-2001[Vakulabharanam 2004]. This, however, is due to groundwater development. Even in the case of area under canals Telangana recorder higher growth of 1.2 per cent when compared to coastal (0.0 per cent) and Rayalaseema (-0.6 per cent) regions. And the growth in canal irrigation was mainly during the period 1970-85 (ibid 2004).

4 Even in the case of area under canals Telangana recorded higher growth of 1.2 per cent when compared to coastal (0.0 per cent) and Rayalaseema (-0.6 per cent) regions. And the growth in canal irrigation was mainly during the period 1970-85 (ibid 2004).

5 Note that not all the large projects generate hydel power. Even one includes the benefits from power generation; the cost of providing one hectare of irrigation of small systems will be comparable with that of big ones. Moreover, the environmental costs of large projects are often not fully assessed/not included in project appraisals.

6 Protecting the irrigated dry crops from water scarcity by providing one or two irrigations in the crop season, instead of providing irrigation on continuous basis.

7 Though there are potential alternative ways of enhancing the agricultural productivity with watershed development and improving the livelihoods through allied and non-farm activities, they require intensive efforts involving institutional innovation and social capital development [Reddy et al 2004]. The state is not keen to tread the difficult path as it is interested in quick results through technical engineering.

8 As per the estimates under the Jalayagnam the potential of major and medium projects is pegged at 59.44 lakh hectares [GoAP 2006]. 9 No project was completed during the Nineth Plan period, i e, 1997-2002.

10 Budget allocations during the last three years are indicative. The allocations have increased from about Rs 15,000 crore in the 2003-04 budget (previous governments) to Rs 3,300 crore in 2004-05, Rs 6,500 crore in 2005-06 and to above Rs 10,000 crore in the 2006-07 budget.

11 Note that the potential exploited does not include the well and tank irrigation here.

12 Economic rationality arguments can no longer withstand the socio-political compulsions. Moreover, there is no choice other than making agriculture viable in these regions given the development scenario.

13 Given the track record of project clearance, even getting an environmental clearance, the rules of which are becoming stringent by day, may take longer time. Some of the major projects such as Polavaram are already embroiled in controversies and conflicts over rehabilitation and resettlement.

14 The details about how to go about implementing pricing policies are beyond the scope of this paper.

15 Recent research has shown that these technologies are being used on a wide variety of crops, including sugarcane, the most water-intensive crop [Narayanamurthy 2003].

16 This is one of the reasons for not adding a single hectare to the area irrigated in the state during the 1990s.


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GoAP (2000): ‘Water Conservation Mission: Information and Guidelines’, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad.

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