Quarter of state budget allocated to manage water; drip irrigation on 100,000 hectares
The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) of the Central government has approved Rs 1,207 crore as aid to Maharashtra for drought relief work. Out of this amount, Rs 807.84 crore has been approved for compensation for crop loss in the Rabi crop season of 2012-13, while Rs 400 crore has been allocated for saving dying orchards in the state.
Speaking on the matter, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said that Maharashtra’s request for increasing the duration of fodder camps from 15 to 90 days, till the end of May 2013, has been accepted. The Central government subsidy maintaining cattle has also been raised from Rs 32 to Rs 50 for large cattle-heads and from Rs 16 to Rs 25 for smaller animals. At present, 441,000 heads of cattle are staying at 553 fodder camps in the state. If there is a need to further extend the duration of camps, an independent proposal should be made to the Central Government, he said.
The amount of government aid for farmers who have sustained crop losses over 50 per cent has been raised from Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,500 per ha for rain fed land, from Rs 6,000 to Rs 9,000 per ha for irrigated land and from Rs 8,000 to Rs 12,000 per ha for perennials. Aid for orchards has been raised to Rs 60,000 per ha out of which the Central government share will be Rs 30,000. This, said Pawar, will help save drying orchards of banana, sweet lime, custard apple, pomegranate and grapes on 130,000 ha in the state. Aid will be limited to two ha for small and marginal farmers and one ha for other farmers.
Meanwhile, state chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said in the state Assembly that in view of the severity of the drought, it has been decided to spend 25 per cent of the state annual budget on irrigation, water conservation, drinking water security and related activities. The state government, he said, has identified 105 small irrigation projects which can be completed before the 2014 monsoon, and this will solve the water problems of more than 2,000 villages in the state. Stressing the serious drinking water situation in the state, he expressed concern that the number of drinking water tankers is likely to go up to 5,000 during the summer, which is 20 times as many tankers as were used last year.
Answering the debate on drought in the state Assembly, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said that state government is considering converting 100,000 ha of crops to drip irrigation and constructing 10,000 farm ponds to conserve water. He said that since sugarcane is the most water-intensive crop, sugar factories will be made responsible for ensuring that cane crops in their area are brought under drip irrigation.
He said that an action plan for water supply will be completed by July 31 and the power to implementation will be given completely to the collectors and divisional commissioners. Under this plan, instructions will be given for primarily reserving water for drinking, followed by water for irrigation and fodder development.
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