There is a need for a comprehensive planning to solve water crisis in farm sector
Akshaya Rout / Kalinga Nagar
The geographical area of Orissa is 1,55,707 sq. kms., with cultivable area of about 65.59 lakh ha. It has been assessed that about 49.90 lakh hectares can be brought under irrigation. But the end of 2005-06 about 27.31 lakh hectares (44.29%) of land was brought under irrigation, out of which 45.4% was covered through major and medium irrigation, 18.8% through minor, 14.3% by minor irrigation and the balance 21.5% were irrigated through other sources. It is the 10th largest State in India as per 2001 census. Its population has 368.05 lakh, which is about 3.58% of the population of the country.
Agriculture sector plays an important role in the state economy. According to the population census 2001, 142.76 lakh total workers out of which 9589 lakh are main workers and 4687 lakh marginal workers. Out of 46.87% lakh marginal workers, 8.12 lakh (17.3%) were cultivators, 29.01 lakh (61.9%) were agricultural labourers, 2.9 lakh (6.3%) workers engaged in house hold industries and 6.76 lakh (14.4%) were other workers of which cultivator and agricultural labourers together were 37.13 per cent.
It shows that majority of the population has been dependent on agriculture and allied activities. It is therefore, agriculture and allied activities plays an important role in the State economy. However, the share of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry in the Gross State Domestic Product has remained comparatively low, around 23.43% per cent. It is therefore necessary to increase the agriculture production and productivity of the crops, which forms the major basis of the rural development.
Agriculture is the process of producing food, feed, fodder, fiber and other goods by the systematic raising of plants and animals. The history of agriculture is closely linked with human history and agricultural developments have been crucial factors in social change including the specialization of human activity. Forty two percent of the world labourers are employed in agriculture, making it by far the most common occupation. Agricultural production accounts for less than 5% of the grass world product. Agriculture is the mainstay of State's economy and sustenance of the life of the people. Agriculture and Animal Husbandry contributed 23.43% of the Net Domestic Product of the state in 2005- 06(A) at 1993-94 prices and provided employment directly or indirectly to around 65% of the total work force as per 2001 census. The per-capita availability of cultivated land was .39 ha in 1950-51 and has declined to .14 ha during 2004-05. So the development of agriculture in Orissa has lagged due to several constraints.
Percentage of cultivators to main workers has decreased from 57% in 1960 to 44% in 1990. By contrast the percentage of agricultural labourers to main workers has increased from 17% in 1960 to 29% in 1990. Thus, within a span of three decades the ratio of agricultural labourers to cultivators has increased substantially from about 3:7 in 1960 to 6.5:3.5 in 1990. This is primarily due to increase in landlessness or near landlessness on account of population growth and sub-division of land holdings among legal heirs. As the pace of industrialization in the state is slow and has not taken off, agriculture continues to provide sources of livelihood to a significant segment of population. Therefore, agricultural growth holds the key to the overall development of the state by way of creating employment, generating income, providing raw materials to the industrial sector and last but not the least ensuring self-reliance in food production and food security to the deprived sections.
On waterfront, the state claims that it has got perennial river systems but most of the rivers unable to provide water for domestic consumption during the dry season. Ayacut of most of the irrigation structures is shrinking. Although ground water potential has not been exploited beyond 15 per cent, there are no adequate studies on the recharging of ground water and its real potential; we have been referring to studies done before 10 years. Of course the State is rich in minerals, extraction of which is dearer to the environmental stability and livelihoods of the millions. Pollution of air and water, and degradation of land because of mines and industries is on the rise; the best example lies with the Talcher-Angul industrial area, which is rated among the country's 14 hotspots for environmental pollution. The long coastline of more than 400 kms provides ample of opportunities for fishing and other maritime activities. Erosion of beaches because of excessive human-sea interactions, poor drainage, heavy siltation, intensive fishing using mechanized boats and gears etc are some of the characteristics of resource use. Pollution of seawater and fluctuations in the fish catch has added worries to the livelihood of the fisher folk. The present trend in resource use is very much in favour of the industrial/corporate interests and acts detrimental to the subsistence of the poor.
In case of Orissa, although share of agriculture to state income has fallen badly and it is no more a prime factor for the state's economy when compared to the growth of service sector, the rural population still predominantly depends on agriculture and allied activities. Failure in agriculture, which has become a common phenomenon, adds to their misery and vulnerability. Since 1991-92, the year that had a bumper food grain production, 72 lakh tons, the production of food grains is gradually on the decline. During 1998-99 the food grains production remained as low as 58 lakh tons. Currently the State is facing a severe drought and crop production will fall further down. The whole agrarian economy is facing two challenges, disasters such as drought, flood, cyclone etc and the other one is input intensive farming practice, which is a distant dream for a poor farmer.
In western Orissa drought occurs every alternate year. No more people can rely on agriculture for their subsistence. The cost of agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, wages etc has registered a substantial hike whereas the market has failed to provide a competitive price to the farmers. The agriculture policy of the State considers agriculture as an industry and the benefits of the policy and programmes skews in favour of rich farmers. There is a growing cosideration for commercialization of agriculture. Increasing costs of agricultural inputs will not enable the small farmers to gain from the farming. Since there is no ceiling on land holding this would promote land alienation.
The poor farmers would sell away their land and prefer to remain as wage earners. The current approaches of agriculture give emphasis on promotion of hybrid seeds, water intensive crops such as sugar cane etc, which would definitely increase the frequency of drought especially in western Orissa, where the monsoon is always erratic. Farmers belonging to all economic strata are after paddy and cash crops, where investment is high and the return is not guaranteed. Farming of short duration paddy, minor millets etc, which was really providing food security, are on the decline because of the faulty policy and programmes of the government. While rain fed agriculture is the reality of this region, irrigation has been shown as the only panacea for this problem. But, whatever irrigation potential have been created the actual irrigation in much less than practiced.
Irrigation efficiency is abysmally low here because of predominance of paddy.
In coastal Orissa, although yield and production are high in agriculture flood and cyclone have been crucial in sustainability of agriculture. The rise in prices of agriculture inputs including wages is another threat to agriculture. The shift from food grains to cash crops is rapid, which is a threat to food security of the State. The fluctuations in the market, hike in prices of agricultural inputs, poor functioning of the existing irrigation systems, water logging and drainage, erratic behaviour of monsoon, flood, mono cropping etc are the significant factors in sustainability of agriculture in coastal Orissa.
The government approaches both flood and drought as two different sets of problem and tries to address them separately. For flood the present thinking is to come out with a second dam in the Mahanadi for moderation of flood in the delta. And for drought the approach is for developing irrigation infrastructure in the drought prone areas. But over these years, crores of rupees has been spent on developing irrigation wells, bore wells, minor irrigation projects etc with very little impact on agriculture there.
In most of the cases these infrastructures are not in use because of structural problems, inappropriate sitting, improper management, inappropriate cropping pattern followed, poor linkage between the farmers, agricultural department and the irrigation department.
Thousands of workers all over the country have been working on the various problems encountered in different irrigation projects. Tons of information accumulated giving rise to myriad of ideas.