Source: Reuters – Wed, 16 Mar 2016 00:58 GMT Author: Reuters
* Half of India’s farmland relies on unpredictable monsoons
* New budget aims to jump start irrigation projects
* Some projects have languished for four decades
* Most irrigation still comes from pumping groundwater
* India’s water tables rapidly depleting
By Rajendra Jadhav and Mayank Bhardwaj
KONDHANE/NEW DELHI, March 16 (Reuters) – Like his father before him, Dattatatraya Kshirsagar, 80, has been looking forward for years to the day when a $65 million dam will be completed in his village, an hour-and-a-half drive southeast of Mumbai.
The dam would supply enough water to irrigate 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) of parched land around it, including Kshirsagar’s 2.5-hectare family farm in Kondhane village.
A steady water supply, instead of reliance on seasonal monsoon rains, would allow him to switch to cash crops and reap three harvests a year, instead of one now, Kshirsagar said.
Kshirsagar’s family has been holding on to that dream since 1984, when the project was first proposed by the state government. “My family’s income will more than double if they complete the dam,” he said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is promising to do just that in the 2016-17 budget presented on Feb. 29. His government has pledged nearly $13 billion on rural development, aiming to double farmer’s incomes by 2022.
Irrigation is a centerpiece of that promise in a country where nearly half of the arable land depends on monsoon rains. Modi’s budget has allocated a record $18 billion in the federal budget to expand irrigation and recharge aquifers – two thirds of that could come from overseas loans