Amid growing strain in Indo-Pak ties, the central government is planning to fast-track four projects in Indus river basin to increase irrigation area in Jammu and Kashmir by nearly 2.05 lakh acre, weeks after India decided to "exploit to the maximum" the water of Pakistan-controlled rivers, including Jhelum, as per Indus Water Treaty (IWT).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last month chaired a meeting to review the 56-year-old IWT in the aftermath of the Uri attack, asserting that "blood and water cannot flow together."
Of these four projects, three—Tral Irrigation Project in Pulwama, Prakachik Khows Canal in Kargil and restoration and modernisation of main Ravi Canal in Jammu's Sambha and Kathua—are expected to be completed by this fiscal. The fourth project of Rajpora Lift Irrigation is planned to be completed by December 2019.
While the first three projects will help irrigate around 1.45 lakh acres of land. The Rajpora Lift Irrigation is expected to help irrigat around 59,305 acres of land.
All these works are expected to cost Rs 117 crore for which money will be raised by National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
"Until now, as per the J&K records, seven lakh acres of land is irrigated in the state. This is a very small number. So, the government is trying to complete work on these projects to increase the size of total irrigated area in the state," sources said.
The sources said technically India can irrigate up to 13 lakh acres of land in Jammu and Kashmir. This target, they said, can be achieved when optimum storage capacity is achieved in the state.
"The projects are being developed well within rights of India and in no way will affect flow of water to Pakistan," they said.
Taking a tough stand in the aftermath of Uri attack, the government had on September 27 decided to "exploit to the maximum" water of Pakistan- controlled three Western rivers—Indus, Chenab and Jhelum—as per the IWT at the review meeting headed by Modi.
It was also decided to set up an inter-ministerial task forces to go into the details and working of the Treaty with a "sense of urgency" apart from agreeing to review the "unilateral suspension" of 1987 Tulbul navigation project in 2007 by India.
However, sources maintained that the projects were part of government's efforts to irrigate larger swaths across the country by completing small/medium 99 irrigation projects under ambitious Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKYS) and Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) and have nothing to do with the Uri incident and "aggression" along LoC. "These (projects) were already worked out. But we do want to bring optimum land under irrigated area as per the deadlines worked out," they said.
Asked if the tense situation in the state, especially after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and ensuing protests, has affected pace of the works, the sources said, "The deadline may vary here and there a little. But the government hopes to complete the project works on time."
The Central Government had launched the PMKYS last year with an aim to enhance physical access to water on farm and expand cultivable area under assured irrigation, improve on-farm water use efficiency, introduce sustainable water conservation practices, etc through major and minor irrigation projects.
The AIBP was launched in 1996-97 to provide central assistance to major/minor irrigation projects in the country with an objective to accelerate implementation of such programmes. Since its inception, 143 projects have been completed under AIBP.