Creation of water harvesting structures: Will the Centre achieve the target?

Tuesday 22 March 2016

The Centre has announced the construction of half a million dug wells and farm ponds to tackle drought


                    If one goes by the target set in the current year, the government has to construct or renovate around 1,370 water conservation structures per day. It is more than double the rate of what it is being done now
Credit: Karnika Bahuguna
If one goes by the target set in the current year, the government has to construct or renovate around 1,370 water conservation structures per day. It is more than double the rate of what it is being done now Credit: Karnika Bahuguna

In view of consecutive monsoon failures over the past three years, the Union Budget 2016-17 aims to address the problem of drought by focusing on increasing irrigation potential to improve agricultural productivity.

Towards this end, the Centre has announced the construction of half a million dug wells and farm ponds and one million vermicompost pits in rain-fed areas under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Generation Scheme (MGNREGS).

“The scheme allows gram sabhas to discuss and decide over development work and provide mandays to villagers who demand work. The target should not be fixed from above (read higher authorities),” Nikhil Dey, a Rajasthan-based MGNREGA activist said.

The announcement has garnered much appreciation as it empowers the gram sabhas to decide about the work to be done as against the target set up by higher authorities.

Tackling drought

According to experts, the target is ambitious. If we go by the current progress of creating water harvesting structures and renovating water bodies, the target seems impossible within the given time period.

The current rate of asset creation related to building water harvesting structures is 562 per day. If we go by the target set in the current year, the government has to construct or renovate around 1,370 water conservation structures per day.

“It can only be completed if things are driven under the mission mode,” Dey added.

Years

Number of works related to water harvesting, conservation and renovation

Rate of work done per day

2013-14

3,42,559

939

2014-15

3,14,720

862

2015-16*

2,05,3000

562

2016-17#

5,00,000

1,370

*till March 3,2016; #proposed

Last year also the government had come up with an unusual target without any ground preparation. In 2015, the government had planned to construct 42 water harvesting structures every hour under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

The target had failed miserably. The rural development ministry did not even want to talk about its performance. The Centre’s ambitious target of constructing one toilet per second had also failed miserably.

Taking this target seriously, the rural development ministry conducted a meeting with state governments from March 10 till March 22, 2016 to discuss the roadmap to achieve the current target.

“This time our focus is on asset creation. So, we prepared our roadmap and will take inputs from the state governments and roll it out from April,” Aprajita Sarangi, joint secretary, MGNREGS, ministry of rural development, said.

“We are going to start this on a mission mode with a transparent monitoring mechanism to track each and every asset,” she added.

The ministry has allocated Rs 1.60 lakh for each farm pond and Rs 10,000 for each vermicompost pit. Besides, it has sanctioned 50,000 anganwadi centres and 1 lakh individual toilets under this scheme.

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"Water harvesting here is nota technique, but a culture"

ANUPAM MISHRA'S association with the Gandhi Peace Foundation (GPF) dates back to 1969. After working with the late Jai Prakash Narayan and the Sarvodaya movement, Mishra involved himself in the Tawa agitation. The agitation had been occasiorned by the construction of a dam on the Tawa river in Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh, in 1980. One of the agitation's outcomes was the Tawa Report, brought out in Hindi by the GPF- Mishra, author of titles like Surrender in the Valley of Terror and Dam on River Tawa, speaks to Sinchita V Bhattacharya on his latest book, Rajasthan ki Rajat Boonde (The Silver Drops of Rajasthan)

A question of harvesting water

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A question of harvesting water

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  • To make such structures sustainable, there must be water supply from a sustainable water supply system. As these structures primarily dependended, they got filled one in few years, depending upon local rainfall, topographic conditions. Rivers get water from catchment area. When you develop drinking water system, unless they are connected to sustainable water supply source, the money spent goes in to drain.

    So, first government must develop sustainable source by building dams. The regional parties shifted from dams to water pits, check dams & watersheds and failed after spending lakhs of crores. Same will be the case with water ponds, drinking water networking.

    However, these schemes make politicians and bureaucrats to mint hundreds and thosands of crores like in the case of checkdams and watershed programmes.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

    Posted by: Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy | 2 years ago | Reply
  • Here traditional methods of water harvesting in Rajasthan and Gujarat needs to be revived.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP)

    Posted by: Anumakonda Jagadeesh | 2 years ago | Reply
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