Agri Business

Watershed programme key to develop degraded and rain-fed areas: Official

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on August 08, 2019 Published on August 08, 2019

Reasonable efforts are needed to bring degraded land under cultivation, Umakant, Joint Secretary, Department of Land Resources, has said. Rain-fed areas constitute about 51.2 per cent of India’s 140.13 million hectares (ha) cultivated area, which is mostly occupied by small and marginal farmers depending heavily on subsistence farming with low-productivity, he added.

“Most effective principle of rain-fed and degraded area development is conservation and efficient use of natural resources. This can best be achieved through watershed development adopting ridge-to-valley approach,” he told the media at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) Retreat Centre at Gwal Pahari in Gurugram as a part of a media training for the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Doubling productivity

In his presentation, Umakant stated that current annual agriculture productivity is 2,509 kg/ha and India aims to double this by 2030 to 5,018 kg/ha. Watershed management is an effective, scientifically proven approach for development of rain-fed and degraded areas.

“There is a need for continuation of watershed programme in the country to cover untreated areas,” he said, adding that the target was to develop 20 million ha of rain-fed and degraded areas at the rate of 5 million ha/year by sanctioning new projects. Umakant said watershed development component under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) had yielded good results.

Minister of Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar had told the Lok Sabha last month that the government was focusing on completing projects which were sanctioned earlier and no new projects were being sanctioned under PMKSY – watershed development component.

MV Rama Chandru of WASSAN, a group of national level support and resource organisations, said that government is not interested in watershed development projects as these projects don’t serve vested interests. “There is no investment made by the government in watershed. MGNERGA is not a solution to watershed programmes. There is no money made available for watershed,” he said.

Experts allege that government policies are biased towards irrigated areas when it comes to public investment in agriculture. Even though the government is hardly investing in watershed development, rain-fed areas account for 89 per cent of millets production, 88 per cent of pulses, 73 per cent of cotton, 69 per cent of oilseeds and 40 per cent rice production in the country.

Besides, rain-fed areas support 64 per cent of cattle, 74 per cent of sheep and 78 per cent of goat population in the country.

Published on August 08, 2019
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