Drought-hit Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh will construct around 6,700 farm ponds under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) in 2016-17, according to data presented in the Lok Sabha. Maharashtra, which is struggling with acute drinking water crisis, has targeted to build only 1,000 farm ponds through MNREGS funds in FY17. And, Uttar Pradesh, which has seen widespread distress, particularly in the Bundelkhand region, has targeted to build 5,705 farm ponds in the same period.
Farm ponds are vital for water harvesting as well as conservation. The central government has planned to build 882,325 farm ponds across the country in 2016-17 through MNREGS. Andhra Pradesh will build the highest number of ponds, 250,000. Karnataka and Jharkhand plan to build 111,340 and 128,132 ponds, respectively, in FY17. While construction of farm ponds, renovation of traditional water bodies and desilting of irrigation tanks have been permitted under NREGS for long, such activities are now done on a priority, given the acute water scarcity in many states. Although it has had a minimal impact on the overall foodgrain production, wheat output in 2016-17 is expected to be 94 million tonnes (mt), which is 7.51 mt more than last year’s production.
According to an assessment by industry body Assocham, drought in many states has cost the national economy ~6.5 lakh crore.
Assocham added that the impact would likely remain for six more months because one needs resources and time to revive the activities on the ground even if monsoon is predicted to be normal this year.