At the Time of Independence

The net irrigated area in the Indian sub continent, comprising the British Provinces and Princely States, at the time of independence was about 28.2 m.ha. The partition of the country resulted in the apportionment of the irrigated area between the two countries; net irrigated area in India and Pakistan being 19.4 m.ha and 8.8 m.ha respectively. Major canal systems, including the Sutlej and Indus systems went to Pakistan. East Bengal, now Bangladesh, which comprises the fertile Ganga Brahmaputra delta region also went to Pakistan. The irrigation works which remained with India, barring some of the old works in Uttar Pradesh and in the deltas of the South, were mostly of protective nature, meant more to ward off famine than to produce significant yields.

Irrigation Development Now

At the central level the union Ministry of Water Resources is responsible for development, conservation and management of water as a national resource, i.e. for policy on water resources development and for technical assistance to the states on irrigation, multipurpose projects ground water exploration, and exploitation, command area development, drainage, flood control, water logging, sea erosion problems, dam safety and hydraulic structures for navigation and hydropower. It also oversees the regulation and development of inter state rivers. These functions are carried out through various Central Organizations. Urban water supply and sewage disposal is handled by the Ministry of Urban Development whereas Rural Water Supply comes under the purview of Department of Drinking Water under the Ministry of Rural Development. Hydroelectric power and thermal power is the responsibility of the Ministry of power and pollution and environment control is that of the ministry of Environment and Forests.

Water being a State subject, the State Governments have primary responsibility for use and control of this resource. The administrative control of responsibility for development of water, rests with the various State Departments and Corporations. Major and medium irrigation is handled by the irrigation/water resources departments. Minor irrigation is looked after partly by water resources departments, minor irrigation corporations. Zilla Parishads/Panchayats and by other departments such as Agriculture. Urban water supply is generally the responsibility of public health departments and panchayats take care of rural water supply. Government tubewells are constructed and managed by the irrigation/water resources department or by tube well corporations set up for the purpose. Hydro-power is the responsibility of the State Electricity Boards.

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