Drip irrigation sprinkles hope over farmers in Rajasthan

July 9th, 2008 - 3:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Rajeev Ranjan Roy
Kaladera (Rajasthan), July 9 (IANS) Amid fear and despair triggered by falling water levels and uncertain rains has come hope for farmers in Rajasthan in the form of “sprinkle and drip irrigation”. An increasing number of farmers now grow staple crops through sprinkle irrigation, a technique where water is sprinkled on plants, or water dripped onto their roots instead of flooding them.

Such irrigation is now becoming an indispensable part of the desert state where the water level is said to be as deep as 80 to 100 metres on an average, and goes down by 10 metres every year.

The state government gives 70 percent financial support for putting in place drip irrigation - a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters.

Now, beverage major Coca-Cola India is chipping in with financial aid.

Mangal Chand Yadav of Sandsar village, some 57 kilometres from Rajasthan’s capital Jaipur, grows tomatoes and chillies on half a hectare of land. It keeps five members of his family busy.

“It has been only a year since I opted for drip irrigation but I can feel the difference. My yield has almost doubled,” a smiling Yadav told IANS.

Madan Lal, a farmer of Naopura village nearby, agreed.

“With the help of drip irrigation, I am growing 300 quintals of watermelon (on 0.6 hectare) against 235 quintals earlier.”

Farmers say more and more of them should be encouraged to switch over to drip irrigation, and private sector firms should also help out in this.

“The government is helping us out, but some aggressive awareness campaign is required. Drip irrigation not only enhances yields, but also saves water,” said Rameshwar Yadav of Kaladera.

Laying a drip irrigation system costs Rs.104,000. Yadav coughed up Rs.10,000 and the rest came from the state government and Coco-Cola.

There are at least 15 farmers whom the beverage company has assisted.

“Meticulous use of water, and how to preserve the nature’s most precious gift is a thrust area for us,” Deepak Jolly, Coca-Cola India vice president for public affairs and communications, told IANS.

“It is our corporate social responsibility to help farmers to opt for drip irrigation, and ensure optimum utilisation of water,” he added.

Experts laud drip irrigation and the willingness of corporate houses to help out farmers.

“Drip irrigation is the answer to the water problem being faced by farmers in Rajasthan and elsewhere,” said N.K. Gupta, an agricultural scientist at Chomu’s Farm Science Centre.

“All stakeholders should come forward in promoting drip irrigation,” he added.

The US-based Coca-Cola, which has a plant in Kaladera, some 40 kilometres from Jaipur in Rajasthan, has also begun restoring ancient ‘bawaris’ or step-wells and sinking shafts to raise the water level in and around the areas of their operations.

“By 2010, we aim at providing drinking water to children in 1,000 schools by promoting rainwater harvesting,” Jolly said.

Just how effective rainwater harvesting is can be gauged from the fact that the groundwater level has not receded in the two years since the system was put in place in the premises of the Kaladera high school that has over 700 students.

“The system has done wonders by effectively harvesting rainwater. It has stopped the groundwater level from going down,” school principal N.K. Arya said.

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