States told to focus on water conservation

States told to focus on water conservation during monsoon

The Centre has asked states, including Karnataka, to focus on water conservation and irrigation, as the normal monsoon forecast has raised hope that a good harvest would help revive the virus-battered economy. 

Four secretaries of the Union Government, jointly wrote to the chief secretaries of the states, stressing on convergence of not only rural job programme, but also the other schemes funded by the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) to ensure use of all available resources for conservation of water during the monsoon.

The Centre has asked the state governments to assign the local authorities to conduct quick and comprehensive survey of all traditional water bodies, including irrigation tanks, old step-wells and ponds. It would be followed by 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 Scheme (MGNREGS).

“The renovation should include de-silting, construction or strengthening of inlets and outlets and afforestation in the catchment areas of the water bodies,” the secretaries of the MoRD and the MoJS wrote to the chief secretaries of the states. 

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 current year. The Union Government is hoping that a bumper harvest would 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 clamped to contain the pandemic.

However, the Union government has asked the states 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 MGNREGS, 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 states to focus on augmentation of existing water sources, groundwater recharge, rainwater harvesting and grey water 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.