The number of surface flow minor irrigation schemes dropped by nearly 9,000 in seven years since 2006-07, resulting in growing dependence on groundwater for agricultural purposes, a government census has found.
According to recently released fifth minor irrigation schemes census, "The number of surface flow minor irrigation schemes has declined from 6,01,000 in 2006-07 to 5,92,000 in 2013-14."
These schemes are located in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand and irrigate about 4.89 million hectare of land, the census has found.
Under the scheme, rainwater is used for irrigation by storing or by diverting it from a river, stream or nala. While permanent diversions are constructed for utilising the flowing stream or river water in some areas, temporary diversions are also constructed sometimes that get washed away during the rainy season.
The decline in the number of surface irrigation schemes has led to growing dependence on groundwater schemes causing depletion of underground water table, the study says.
It has suggested that steps should be taken to restore surface water sources in order to continue to derive benefits from them and stop further depletion of water table.
Tanks/ponds form the largest share (41 per cent) of allthe surface flow irrigation schemes, while 14 per cent and 10 per cent of the schemes are reservoirs and temporary diversions, respectively.
Fifty-four per cent of the surface flow schemes are owned by public and 46 per cent by the private entities. Of thepublic surface schemes, 75 per cent are government-owned, while 17 per cent are owned by panchayats (local governing agencies).
Among privately-owned schemes, 73 per cent are withindividual farmers, while 27 per cent are with group of farmers.
"As per the social status of the farmers owning surfaceflow schemes, about 31.4 per cent schemes belong to others followed by other backward castes (29.6 per cent), scheduled tribe (27.9 per cent) and scheduled caste (11.1 per cent)," the census said.
Of the individually-owned schemes, about 73 per cent are financed by single source, while 27 per cent are backed by more than one source.
In surface flow schemes which are in use around 78 per cent are functioning without any constraint in utilisation of potential, the study said.
The remaining 22 per cent are underutilised largely because of reasons like storage not being filled up fully and less discharge of water.