India to Spend $1 Billion to Clean Waters, Boost Irrigation

Aug 14, 2014 9:24 am ET

Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- India plans to spend 62.4 billion rupees ($1 billion) by 2017 to clean waters in 10,000 canals, lakes and rivers as it seeks to irrigate more land in a nation that runs the world’s largest food subsidy program.

Asia’s third-biggest economy will be able to irrigate an additional half-million hectares (1.2 million acres) of land because of the plan, Minister for Water Uma Bharti said today in Parliament.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will partly fund the projects, which will be implemented by state governments, Bharti said. Of almost 524,000 water bodies used for irrigation in India, the government said about 80,000 aren’t operational because of increased usage of groundwater by farmers, lack of maintenance and diversion of land for different uses.

The Indian government has also prepared a plan to build artificial replenishment and rainwater harvesting structures across almost 1 million square kilometers to harness water during the monsoon that accounts for about 70 percent of India’s annual rain as well as to improve groundwater levels, the minister said.

Growing population in the second-most populous nation has cut India’s water availability to 1,545 cubic meters per person in 2011 from 1,816 cubic meters in 2001, according to the government.

The water spending plan announced today was initially sketched out in 2012.