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   Brief about the Project


Tamil Nadu is one of the water starved states in India endowed with only 3 percent of the water resources in India. The state located in the rain shadow region of the Western Ghats is receiving limited average annual rain fall of about 925 millimeters, lower than the national average 1200 millimeters. The per capita availability of water in the state is about 750 cubic meters per annum compared to the national average of 2100 cubic meters.

There are 17 major river basins, 89 reservoirs, about 41,948 tanks and about 3 million wells. The total surface of water potential of the state is 24,864 Million Cubic Metre (MCM) which has already been heavily taped primarily for irrigation. 24 lakh hectares are irrigated by surface water which is about 90 percent utilization. The utilizable ground water recharge is 22,423 MCM and the current level of utilization is about 60 percent. There has been a general decline of the ground water level owing to complete desaturation of shallow aquifers. The total irrigated area is 3 million hectares which is 54 percent of the total cropped area. Irrigation canals supply water to 30 percent of irrigated area, tanks provide 21 percent and the wells irrigate 49 percent.

Characteristics of Agriculture Sector

Agriculture provides livelihood to nearly 40 percent of the people. The total cultivated area is 5.57 million ha while the net areas sown is around 4.82 million ha (2009-10) and the cropping intensity is 114%. (The Gross cropped area is 5.57 million ha). Agriculture still employs 40 percent of the workers in the state. In recent years the state's agriculture sector has grown modestly at less than 3% per annum compared with 6-9% growth of the state's economy. The performance of agriculture sector below its potential is due to multiple factors including increasing water shortages, stagnant crop yields, low level of diversification, rigid mindset of the farmers in refusing to accept the improved technologies, weak market development, high rates of post- harvest losses, and increasing climate change threats.

A wide range of crops such as cereals, pulses, oil seeds, fruits, vegetables and other crops are cultivated under varied agro-climatic conditions in the state. The state accounts for nearly 6 percent of area under fruits and 4 percent of the area under vegetables in India. The livestock population is sizable and there is good potential for boosting production of milk and meat in the state. The raising of crops mainly depends on successful monsoons and the low and uncertain rain fall including skewed most often affect production and productivity. There are large number of marginal and small farms challenging full adoption of scientific farming and production techniques. Nearly 75 percent farms are smaller than one hectare. Diversification of agriculture has huge potential to enhance farm incomes. Rice accounts for about a third of total gross crop and nearly 60 percent irrigated area in Tamil Nadu. The state is endowed with 4 percent of inland fish production in India.

Status of Irrigation

Agriculture is the single largest consumer of water in the state, using 75% of the state's water. Out of 40000 tanks only 14098 Tanks are under the maintenance of the Water Resources Department with the rest under the Panchayat unions. Irrigation through a combination of canals, wells and tanks increases the reliability and availability of water for farming and is essential for cultivating crops in much of state. About 3 million ha of land (54 percent of the total crop land) is under irrigation.

An Expert Committee on "Development and Management of Water Resources" observed that bringing additional area into cultivation is remote but the challenge is how best to bridge the gap in cultivation by reducing demands, by effective water management and by adoption of modern agricultural techniques (Micro Irrigation etc.) The Committee recommended Integrated Water Resources Management & convergence of various Departments for development and management of water resources in Tamil Nadu.

With Agriculture sector facing major constraints due to dilapidated irrigation infrastructure, coupled with water scarcity (both quantity and quality) and growing demands from industry and domestic users, long term growth in agriculture and rural income depends in large part on increasing efficiency and effectiveness in the use of water. Concomitantly increased agricultural diversification and private investments in higher value processing are likely to generate new rural non-farm employment opportunities and raise rural incomes. Increased availability of water and greater efficiency of water use through improved water management and widespread adoption of drip and sprinkler irrigation could enable cultivation of crops over larger area, year round, providing employment in agricultural production and processing, benefiting the rural poor.

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