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Classification of Irrigation Works in India

Post-independence development of irrigation works in India were on the basis of classification of works into major, medium and minor projects. The classification has changed over the years from the basis of the extent of culturable command area of the project to that of expenditure involved in the project and back again to the basis of culturable command area. During the preplan period (prior to A.D. 1951), irrigation projects were classified on the basis of culturable command area of the project. During the period ranging from 1951 to 1978, the classification was based on the cost involved in the schemes. Since 1978, the basis of classification of irrigation projects has again been on the basis of the culturable command area of the project.

Accordingly, irrigation projects in India are presently classified into the following three categories:

  • (i) Major Irrigation Projects. All irrigation schemes with a culturable command area of 10,000 ha or more are classified as major irrigation projects. They are essentially surface water projects involving large-scale storage/diversion works.
  • (ii) Medium Irrigation Projects. Projects having a culturable command area of 2000 ha to 10,000 ha are classified as medium irrigation projects. Medium irrigation projects are also usually surface water projects, excepting a few large lift irrigation schemes.
  • (iii) Minor Irrigation Projects. All irrigation schemes having a culturable command area upto 2000 ha individually are classified as minor irrigation projects. Minor irrigation schemes are further grouped as (a) surface water minor irrigation schemes, and (b) groundwater minor irrigation schemes.

Jurisdiction of water resources. Under the Indian Constitution, water is the responsibility of the states. Thus, the federal states are primarily responsible for the planning, implementation, funding and management of water resources development projects. This responsibility in each state is borne by the Irrigation/Water Resources Departments. The Inter-State Water Disputes Act of 1956 provides a framework for the resolution of possible conflicts between states on the utilization of water resources. At central level, there are three main institutions involved in water resources development and management:

  • (i) The Ministry of Water Resources: This is responsible for laying down policy guidelines and programmes for the development and regulation of the country's water resources. The ministry's technical arm, the Central Water Commission, provides general infrastructure, and technical and research support for water resources development at state level. The Central Water Commission is also responsible for the assessment of water resources.
  • (ii) The Planning Commission: This is responsible for the allocation of financial resources required for various programmes and schemes of water resources development to the states as well as to the Ministry of Water Resources. It is also actively involved in policy formulation related to water resources development at the national level; and the Ministry of Agriculture, which promotes irrigated agriculture through its Department of Agriculture and Cooperation. The research support at the national level is by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The Central Pollution Control Board is in charge of water quality monitoring, and the preparation and implementation of action plans to solve pollution problems.

International water treaties/agreements. Under the Indus Water Treaty (1960) between India and Pakistan, all the waters of the eastern rivers, i.e. the Satluj, Beas and Ravi rivers taken together, shall be available for the unrestricted use of India. All the waters, while flowing in Pakistan, or of any tributary which in its natural course joins the Satluj main or the Ravi main after these rivers have crossed into Pakistan, shall be available for the unrestricted use of Pakistan.

India controls the flow of the Ganges River through a barrage completed in 1974 at Farraka, 18 km from the border with Bangladesh. A treaty was signed in December 1996, under which Bangladesh is ensured a fair share of the flow reaching the Farraka barrage, in addition to the releases during the monsoon seasons. Appropriate agreements exist between Nepal and India for the exploitation of the Kosi River (1954, 1966) and the Gandak River (1959) (Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 2001).

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