The number of groundwater schemes has increased, while that of surface water schemes has gone down across the country between 2006-07 and 2013-14, resulting in growing dependency of farmers on subsurface resources, the government's minor irrigation census has found. The census, released last month, has suggested that steps should be taken to restore surface water sources in order to continue to derive benefits from them and also stop further depletion of underground water table. According to the study, there has been a significant growth in the number of groundwater schemes such as dug well, shallow, medium and deep tube wells from 19.75 millions to 20.52 millions during the period. The number of surface water schemes such as flow and lift irrigations, however, has dropped from 1.24 millions to 1.19 millions. "Groundwater still accounts for the lion's share (94.5 per cent) of all the minor irrigation schemes in the country. At the national level, groundwater schemes are increasing but surface water schemes are declining," the census found. "...this implies declining dependency of farmers on surface water schemes and increasing dependency on groundwater schemes for meeting their minor irrigation needs," it added. The fifth census, carried out with 2013-14 as the reference year, said that there has been an increase in the number of minor irrigation (MI) structures in the country as observed during the latest census. The fifth study found that there were 21.7 million MI structures in the country in 2013-14 as against 21 millions enumerated in 2006-07 -- a rise of around 3.37 per cent. "Uttar Pradesh possesses the largest number of MI schemes in the country (38 lakhs), followed by Maharashtra (29.2 lakhs), Madhya Pradesh (20.82 lakhs) and Tamil Nadu (20.72 lakhs)," the report said. The four states contribute 50 per cent of the total MI schemes in the country. Out of the 33 states/Union territories, 10 states have more than 10 lakh MI schemes.
Eight other states have MI schemes ranging between 1 lakh and 10 lakhs. "Remaining 15 states/UTs have less than 1 lakh schemes," it said. Maharashtra possesses the largest number of surface water schemes, followed by Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal. The census also found that there has been a rise of 6.5 per cent in the irrigation potential created (IPC) from the MI structures in the country as compared to 2006-07. The IPC has increased from 84.03 million hectares in fourth census to 89.52 million hectares as per the latest enumeration. Similarly, irrigation potential utilised (IPU) has gone up from 63.5 million hectares in fourth census to 71.3 million hectares in the fifth study, which shows an increase of around 12.3 per cent during this period. The gap between IPU and IPC has also reduced by 2.31 million hectares in the minor irrigation sector. As per the fifth MI census, 78.9 million hectares of irrigation potential is created through groundwater schemes and 10.6 million hectares through surface water schemes. The irrigation potential utilised is 63.4 million hectares and 7.9 million hectares for groundwater and surface water schemes respectively, it said. "This shows that 80.3 per cent of the potential created in groundwater has been utilised, while percentage of utilisation in respect of surface water is 74.8 per cent," the census added. The fifth census was conducted across the country in 33 states/UTs, except Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep. The study covered 6,46,784 villages. It involved large- scale collection of data of about 21.7 million minor irrigation structures in the villages and was completed by primary workers in the states/UTs under the overall supervision of state nodal departments. The first three such studies were carried out with reference years as 1986-87, 1993-94 and 2000-01.
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