Considering the vagaries of rainfall, irrigation facilities are critical to cultivating more than one crop in a year. During the first four decades of independence, India spent about Rs. 45,000 crores on irrigation. The average cost per ha. of potential created has increased steeply during this periods from about Rs. 1,500 during the first plan to Rs. 50,000 during the seventh plan. (Source : CMIE Directory of Indian Agriculture, 1997)
Assam has abundant and untapped ground water potential. State Government prioritised massive irrigation facility with the concept of Participatory Irrigation Management. The large untapped ground water resources if tapped intensively can provide a powerful spearhead for sustained growth of agricultural productivity. Scientific exploitation of ground water resources will help to (i) provide water at critical times and reduce water logging in rainy seasons and (ii) increase the availability of irrigation in dry season thereby acting as a useful tool for water management. Irrigation facility is vital need for summer rice cultivation in Assam.
Capital formation in the area of irrigation through bank credit has been negligible in the State due to a plethora of problems confronting the rural credit system viz., abysmal recovery of bank loans, defunct long term co-operative credit system, difficulties in obtaining land mortgage for bank loans etc. With a view to improve the production and productivity of the field crops, more particularly of summer rice, the State Government, in co-ordination with NABARD, had launched a project called "Samridha Krishak Yojana" (SKJ) wherein 1 lakh STWs would be installed in the state with a total financial outlay of Rs. 230 crores and loan component of Rs. 138 crore under RIDF V. Controlled irrigation through low cost structures can facilitate progressive use of HYV, fertilisers and other fruits of modern technology which are basically scale neutral and useful for small farmers. This unique project was sanctioned to Government of Assam by NABARD as a very special case keeping in view the urgent irrigation needs of the state. The project envisaged creating additional 2 lakh ha of irrigated area in the 18 districts of the state within a period of three years and estimated increase in the cropping intensity from 118% to 246%.
To augment agricultural production in the state with development of irrigation facilities.
Shallow Tube Wells under Government scheme of One Lakh Tube Well project.
Role of Field Management Committees (FMCs) in installation of STWs
The salient feature of the programme is that people's participation has been invoked in the implementation through people's institutions known as the Field Management Committees (FMCs). FMC is village based body registered with the Department of Agriculture and consists of individual farmers with membership varying from 50 to 400.
Implementation of STWs Project
- The first phase of installation of 30000 STWs was launched in 1999 and the State Government machinery completed the implementation of this massive programme with much faster pace ahead of the schedule in a short period of a year which itself is a record. In the second phase of 70000 STWs, the Government of Assam had installed 69000 STWs. As per the government sources, the project has been completed with a total STW installation at 99000.
- There has been significant increase in the production of summer paddy (the total production of rice in the state has increased from 33.28 lakh M.T. in 1996-97 to 38.50 lakh M.T. in 1999-2000). The productivity of rice has also recorded an increase from 1336 kg/ha in 1996-97 to 1479 kg/ha in 1999-2000.
- Resulted in positive change in cropping pattern, introduction of new crops (wheat, potato etc.), mono to multiple cropping (Rabi and summer cropping).
- Farmers in the project area are shifting from traditional methods to scientific method of cultivation.
- Cropping intensity increased from 118% to 246% in post development phase. The farmers who were hitherto indulging in mono crop cultivation are now switching over to multi cropping pattern.
- Water rates are being charged by the FMCs from its members for recovering the cost of operating expenses although not covering the charge towards depreciation or maintenance of the structures.
- The income of farmers have broadly gone up to twice/thrice of their pre-project income, despite low market prices and increase in cost of inputs in certain districts.
Project is an example of participatory irrigation management in irrigation commands besides sharing the cost of irrigation structures with the State Government.
Users are contributing towards the operational costs of the schemes.