Increased acreage in Telangana commensurate with surged irrigation, groundwater

Farmers of the youngest State of Telangana are in a buoyant mood with 24-hour free power, increased groundwater levels and availability of a new canal irrigation

Increased acreage in Telangana commensurate with surged irrigation, groundwater

HYDERABAD: Farmers of the youngest State of Telangana are in a buoyant mood with 24-hour free power, increased groundwater levels and availability of a new canal irrigation.

Groundwater can only be tapped if it is available. With recharge of groundwater levels, the farmers are making the optimum use of the opportunity.

Barren land which remained fallow for decades, was brought under cultivation thereby increasing the demand for water for irrigation.

The State Government tackled the issue in a two-pronged manner.

While the new irrigation schemes such as the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP) added new ayacut and stabilised the old; increased groundwater levels helped farmers to utilise the free power to irrigate their lands with the borewells fitted with electric pumps.

Several scientific studies done and published by the State Irrigation Department and the Telangana Ground Water Department in world-renowned journals proved that the new lift irrigation projects have actually surged the water table in several districts where farmers used to dig deeper and deeper for water losing huge amounts of money.

Now the groundwater table of the state has spiked considerably compared to the pre-2014 situation. In fact, groundwater extraction decreased from 65 percent in 2017 to 42 percent in 2022.

Improved groundwater availability has cut down power consumption and the availability of canal irrigation has brought more land into cultivation leading to a spurt in cereal production and the economic well-being of the Telangana farmer.

The increased groundwater level also saves power as the farmer need not irrigate the field too often, with the root zone of the crops has to receive moisture on a continuous basis, unlike the situation in dryland farming where the only source of irritation is through surface distribution, drip or sprinkler irrigation.

After the formation of the State, only 6.6 lakh new agriculture connections have been released in the State, taking the total number of agricultural connections at present to 26.22 lakh, according to an expert from Telangana Groundwater Department, adding that the annual addition of new pump sets for agriculture is the lowest ever.

Precisely for this reason, with a view to enabling the farmers to tap groundwater for farming,

Telangana Government has consistently opposed the Centre’s move of fixing electric meters to motors. Chief Minister KCR himself espoused this cause.

As the government is taking care of recharging the groundwater, despite fluctuating rainfall, it has been encouraging farmers to tap groundwater for farming.

Less than average rainfall in June

Let us take a look at the groundwater levels in the month of June 2023 that has witnessed lesser rainfall than usual.

The Telangana Groundwater Department monitored water levels in June through 1,718 Piezometers (monitoring stations) covering all mandals from 33 districts of Telangana State.

During the water year 2023-24 (up to June 30, 2023), the State received rainfall of 73 mm against 129 mm of normal rainfall. The rainfall ranges from 34 mm (Karimnagar District) to 108 mm (Komuram Bheem Asifabad District). There was a 44 percent lesser rainfall during this period as compared to normal annual rainfall. Eight districts received scanty rainfall, 17 districts received deficit rainfall and eight districts received normal rainfall

Average groundwater levels in the State during June-2023 was 8.67 metres below ground level (m-bgl) and they varied from 4.97 m bgl (Warangal) to 13.55m bgl (Vikarabad).

A net average fall of 0.01 m in groundwater levels was observed during June-2023 compared to June-2022 and a rise was observed in 12 districts and a fall in the remaining 11 districts.

The less-than-average rainfall in the month of June, a crucial month for agricultural operations for paddy nurseries might have resulted in a spurt of usage of borewells, but once the nurseries are stabilised the usage would come down drastically.

The decadal average groundwater increase was 9.64 m bgl

The average groundwater level has increased by 9.64 metres below ground level (m bgl) during the last 10 years in Telangana.

While 2015-16 witnessed the highest-ever increase of 13.42 mbgl, the current year registered the lowest with 6.22 m bgl explaining in part the reasons for increased power consumption.

Around 61 percent of groundwater recharge in Telangana is from non-rainfall sources clearly indicating that the lift irrigation schemes had a positive effect on improving the groundwater table.

The latest Dynamic Groundwater Resources computed for Telangana State for the year 2022, a book released by the Irrigation Department of Telangana along with the Central Water Commission (CWC), said that Telangana which constitutes 3.5 percent of the country's geographical area, had contributed 3.5 percent of the extractable groundwater resources in 2014 and it has increased to 4.8 per cent in 2022.

The Centre has hailed the efforts of Telangana in raising the groundwater table and reducing the dependability on the valuable resource. The report further assessed that available extractable groundwater resources are 19,251 Million Cubic Metres (MCM), gross groundwater extraction is 8,009 MCM with the average stage of groundwater extraction of 41.6 percent and the net groundwater availability for future use is 11,326 MCM.

Among all districts, Komarambheem Asifabad extracts less groundwater (15 percent) in the safe category and Hyderabad has the highest extraction (96 percent) in the critical category being an urban conglomerate.

The area under agriculture increased

The area brought under cultivation after the formation of the State has tremendously increased. Gross Sown Area (GSA) has been increased from 131 lakh acres in 2014-15 to 198 lakh acres in 2021-22 (an increase of 51 percent).

This increase in area is mainly due to the planned investments in new irrigation projects, revitalisation of existing irrigation systems, and systematic procurement mechanisms implemented by the Government. Paddy cultivation in both seasons has made the State the rice bowl of India in a very short span.

Paddy, cotton, maize, red gram and soybean are the major crops grown in the State. The area under these five major crops constitutes 85 percent of the total area in the State during 2021-22.

Further, of these five major crops, paddy (50 percent) and cotton (24 percent) constitute about 74 percent of the area.

In 2014-15, the area cultivated under Paddy was about 35 lakh acres and increased by 180 percent to 98 lakh acres in 2021-22.

Similarly, the area under the cotton crop also increased by 12 percent from 42 lakh acres to 47 lakh acres in 2021-22.

Free Power to farmers

Free power for agriculture was implemented on January 1, 2018. The government is providing 24 hours free and quality power supply to the agricultural consumers in the State. Out of the total power supply in the State, about 40 percent is spent on agriculture.

Since 2014-15, the government has spent an amount of Rs 49,314 crore towards subsidies given for the supply of free power to the farmers in the State. The present power consumption has increased to 3,500 MW as against 1,500 MW before the formation of the State.

At all India level, Telangana consumes the highest percentage (41.25 percent) of electricity for agriculture purposes (24077 GWh out of total energy sold of 58,365 GWh 9) in 2018-19

Irrigation potential rose to 135 lakh acres

According to the Socio-Economic Outlook 2023, during the 2014-15 to 2022-23 period, the Telangana government spent Rs 1.61 lakh crore on irrigation projects in the State, resulting in an increase of the Gross Irrigated Area (GIA) from 62.48 lakh acres in 2014-15 to 135 lakh acres in 2021-22, an increase of 117 percent.

After the formation of Telangana, the Government commissioned major projects such as Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project, through which about 18.25 lakh acres have been brought under irrigation. The project can now lift 2 TMC per day for at least 5 months in a year and 3 TMC per day in the future. It can store 141 TMC in online reservoirs and supplement to Sriramsagar, Nizamsagar, Singur, Upper Manair, Mid Manair & Lower Manair, reservoirs and minor irrigation tanks in the command areas of the above projects as and when it is deficit.

Net groundwater availability in the Kaleshwaram command area increased from 125.5 TMC to 160.5 TMC. Groundwater extraction decreased from 64 percent to 55 percent.

KLIP caters to irrigation facilities for 45 lakh acres in 13 districts of Telangana State, and drinking water to hundreds of villages and towns en route through the Mission Bhageeratha scheme.

Similarly, Sita Rama Lift Irrigation Scheme has created an irrigation potential of 3.87 lakh acres, J Chokka Rao Devadula Lift Irrigation Scheme, is irrigating another 5.58 lakh acres.

The Rajeev Bhima Lift Irrigation Scheme is irrigating about 2.03 lakh acres. Mahatma Gandhi Kalwakurthy lift irrigation scheme is providing irrigation to 4.24 lakh acres.

Over all, Telangana Government’s effective management of electricity, irrigation, groundwater resulted in farmers’s prosperity through bountiful agriculture.

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