The Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, launched by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has brought joy to farmers of the drought-hit areas of Vidarbha and Marathwada. The Jalyukt Shivar Scheme is an initiative by the Maharashtra government to make the state drought-free by 2019. Under this water conservation scheme, micro-irrigation systems would be encouraged for proficient use of water, hence increasing the irrigated area. The government will be initially allocating Rs 1,000 crore for the scheme. Moreover, all the existing water conservation schemes will be now accumulated under this scheme. With several parts of Maharashtra still reeling under drought, the state government has launched the scheme to combat the increasing number of suicides by farmers in the state. Except digging ponds for water conservation, this scheme will also work towards broadening and deepening river base, tree plantation building check dams, canals, small ponds, and wells for conservation and transportation of water. Additionally, it will also solve conservation-related issues like removing silt from lakes, ponds, farm ponds, and canals.
The scheme has been a major success, as the latest data from the department of water conservation shows a steady decline in water tankers in drought-hit villages where Jalyukt Shivar works were completed. In four months of this summer, only 152 tankers of water were needed in 12,000 villages that became water reliant. The tankers required in the area is going down slowly, as in 2011, 379 tankers were needed while the number came down to 366 in 2017. According to officials in the water conservation department, “The total villages where Jalyukt Shivar work has been undertaken are 16,521. The total projects in these villages were 4.98 lakhs.” The money spent on the conservation scheme comes from the government as well as from the people. Public contribution to the project for last three years was Rs 630.62 crore and the number of projects completed through public participation was 10,522.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis expressed his happiness over the public support of the project, saying, “The success of Jalyukt Shivar is public partnership. It has become a mass movement where villagers lend support through physical labor (shramdan) and monetary contributions. There is a great sense of ownership of the project which makes it unique and sustainable.” The money spent on this ambitious scheme is very little in respect to results that it gave, according to water conservation department, “The total expenditure incurred on 4.98 lakh works in 16,521 villages does not exceed Rs 7258 crore in three years.”
Another data which shows the positive results of this scheme is from the Indian Forest Survey Report 2017. Highlighting the results achieved through water conservation scheme, Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said “Maharashtra witnessed an increase of 432 sq km in the water catchment areas in forests in two years thanks to the Jalyukt Shivar water conservation program, this increase happened due to the Jalyukt Shivar and other water conservation works undertaken by the Forest Department.” As per the report, the total water catchment area in state’s forests was 1,116 sq km in 2015 which increased to 1,548 sq km in 2017. The forest department approved 33,747 water conservation-related works between 2014-15 and 2016-17 of which 28,741 projects were completed.
Maharashtra has suffered from drought for a long time and is one of the most drought-prone states in the country. The previous governments promised to solve the drought problem but none of them were able to make any inroads. This new scheme by the Fadnavis government is a ray of hope for the farmers of the state. Maharashtra has the most farmer suicides in the country due to drought-related issues, and if this scheme is able to solve the problems of farmers in Maharashtra then it could be replicated in other drought-hit states according to their local conditions.