The Centre has asked the Government of Karnataka and the other states to focus on water conservation and irrigation, as the prediction of a normal monsoon raised hope that a good harvest would help revive the economy battered by the coronavirus crisis.
Four secretaries of the Union Government jointly wrote to the chief secretaries of all the States, stressing on the convergence of not only village job programme, but also the other schemes funded by the Union Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) to ensure the use of all available resources for conservation of water during the monsoon.
The Centre asked the State Governments to assign the local authorities to conduct a quick and comprehensive survey of all traditional water bodies, including irrigation tanks, old step-wells and ponds. It would be followed by the removal of encroachment around such water bodies.
Finally, the water-bodies should be renovated by engaging the villagers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
The renovation should include de-silting, construction or strengthening of inlets and outlets and afforestation in the catchment areas around the water bodies, the secretaries of the MoRD and the MoJS wrote to the chief secretaries of the State Governments.
With India Meteorological Department forecasting a normal monsoon this year, the Ministry of Agriculture set the food-grain production target for the nation for 2020-21 crop-year at 298.3 million tonnes – two per cent more than the record yield during the current year. The Union Government is expecting that a bumper harvest might help it steer the economy out of the slowdown caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
The Centre had to drop its plan to deploy its officials to re-run the Jal Shakti Abhiyan this year in view of the travel and transport restrictions and the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Union Government had run the Jal Shakti Abhiyan in two phases – first phase from July 1 to September 15 and the second phase from October 1 to November 30.
Last year, with its officials working with the State Governments to implement the “mission-mode” campaign for the renovation of over 75 lakh water bodies and construction of more than one crore water conservation and rainwater harvesting structures in 256 water-stressed districts across the country, including 18 in Karnataka.
Though the plan for a wider and more intensive Jal Shakti Abhiyan across the country this year had to be dropped, the Centre asked all the State Governments to ensure optimal deployment of all available resources “to catch the rain” during the coming monsoon.
Apart from the water conservation and irrigation activities allowed under the MGNREGA, a number of related activities can be taken up under other schemes being implemented by the MoJS and Department of Land Resources of the MoRD, the Centre wrote to the State Governments.
The communiqué specifically asked the State Governments to focus on augmentation of existing water sources, groundwater recharge, rainwater harvesting and greywater management for reuse and recharge (construction of community soak pits or leach pits or waste stabilization ponds) under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) as well as repair and restoration works under the Watershed Development Component of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (WDC-PMKSY).