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Tank-filling schemes boost farmers’ income but sustainability missing: Report

The study assessed 33 tank-filling schemes implemented.
Last Updated : 19 July 2023, 21:19 IST
Last Updated : 19 July 2023, 21:19 IST
Last Updated : 19 July 2023, 21:19 IST
Last Updated : 19 July 2023, 21:19 IST

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The Karnataka government’s scheme to rejuvenate and fill 553 tanks in 937 villages has brought direct and indirect benefits to farmers and the environment, a performance audit by the Institute of Social and Economic Change (ISEC) has said while flagging high operation costs and sustainability issues.

The study assessed 33 tank-filling schemes implemented by the Cauvery Neeravari Nigam Limited (CCNL) across Mysuru, Mandya, Chamarajanagar, Ramanagar, Tumakuru and Hassan districts. Primary and secondary data, including a survey of 2344 households, was assessed to study the economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

About 98% of the respondents reported that the scheme has benefited the farmers in various ways. It has helped overcome drinking water problems that were prevalent earlier, recharge groundwater, and revive defunct borewells. Additionally, it has improved the economic status of farmers through the creation of primary and secondary employment opportunities, the report said.

Krishna Raj, professor at ISEC’s Centre for Economic Studies and Policy, said apart from generating secondary sources of income like fishing and animal husbandry, the scheme had a major positive effect on conservation.

“The scheme builds resilience to climate change and against the encroachment of water bodies. People largely understand the importance of protecting the tanks,” he said but added the need to clear the encroachments for a sustainable future.

Sustainability

The report also flagged sustainability issues. Data collected from the survey showed that about 35% of the farmers had changed cropping patterns from food crops (mainly finger millet) to commercial. In Ramanagar, the ragi crop fell from 85% to 20% after water from the tank filling scheme was made available.

“On the other hand, there is an increase in growing water-intensive crops like coconut, maize, paddy, areca nut and others,” the report said, adding that it increased by 50% among farmers of Hassan district who got water through the scheme.

Raj said regardless of the scheme’s effectiveness in helping farmers diversify their economic activities, long-term planning was required to ensure a sustainable future.

The CNNL scheme involves pumping water from Hemavathy, Kabini, Lokapavani and from some larger lakes to tanks in some villages. The schemes have so far filled 553 tanks at a cost of Rs 1120.07 crore. The main objective was to tackle drinking water scarcity.

While 24% of the schemes were delayed, those that were implemented showed an increasing trend in operation and maintenance (O&M) costs.

“It is recommended to generate self-sustained revenue from these schemes. The revenue sources for meeting the O&M costs may be explored by imposing a reasonable agricultural tax on the beneficiary farmers considering the value of agricultural produce or cess on the quantity of the produce brought to the markets,” the report recommended.

Raj said such a measure was necessary to avoid excess drawing of water and bring awareness on the value of the resource. “There is also a need for forming associations of farmers to protect the tanks and lakes and monitor the use of water. This will help them develop a sense of ownership to protect and conserve the water bodies, forests and village commons,” he said.

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Published 19 July 2023, 18:57 IST

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