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The water use efficiency under conventional flood method of irrigation, which is predominantly practised in Indian agriculture, is very low due to substantial conveyance and distribution losses. Recognizing the fast decline of irrigation water potential and increasing demand for water from different sectors, a number of demand management strategies and programmes have been introduced to save water and increase the existing water use efficiency in Indian agriculture. One such method introduced relatively recently in Indian agriculture is micro-irrigation, which includes both drip and sprinkler method of irrigation. Micro-irrigation (MI) is proved to be an efficient method in saving water and increasing water use efficiency as compared to the conventional surface method of irrigation, where water use efficiency is only about 35-40 percent. Though both drip and sprinkler irrigation methods are in use over the last two decades or so, not many studies seem to have studied the potential and prospects of micro-irrigation covering different states in India. In this study, therefore, an attempt is made to (a) study the current research on micro-irrigation, (b) study the past trends in drip and sprinkler irrigated area across states, © analyse the efficiency of drip and sprinkler irrigation, (d) estimate the potential area for drip and sprinkler irrigation in different states and (e) study the reasons for the slow adoption of micro irrigation as well as to suggest policy/technical interventions for increasing the adoption of WSTs in the future.


Studies carried out across different countries including India have confirmed that irrigation plays a paramount role in increasing the use of yield increasing inputs and enhancing cropping intensity as well as productivity of crops (Dhawan, 1988; Vaidyanathan, et al., 1994). Apart from benefiting the farmers, irrigation development also helps to increase the employment opportunities and wage rate of the agricultural landless labourers, both of which are essential to reduce the poverty among the landless labour households (Saleth, 2004; Narayanamoorthy, 2001a; Bhattarai and Narayanamoorthy, 2003; Narayanamoorthy and Deshpande, 2003). However, water is becoming increasingly scarce worldwide due to various reasons (Rosegrant, et al., 2002). With the fast decline of irrigation water potential and continued expansion of population and economic activity in most of the countries located in arid and semi-arid regions, the problems of water scarcity is expected to be aggravated further (see, Biswas, 1993 and 2001; Rosegrant, 1997; Rosegrant, et al., 2002). Macro-level estimate carried out by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, indicates that one-third of the world population would face absolute water scarcity by the year 2025 (Seckler, et al., 1998; Seckler, et al., 1999). As per this estimate, the worst affected areas would be the semi-arid regions of Asia, the Middle-East and Sub-Saharan Africa, all of which are already having heavy concentration of population living below poverty line. In spite of having the largest irrigated area in the world, India too has started facing sever water scarcity in different regions. Owing to various reasons the demand for water for different purposes has been continuously increasing in India, but the potential water available for future use has been declining at a faster rate (Saleth, 1996; CWC, 2005).

Research on Drip Irrigation:

Considering the importance of drip method of irrigation in the sustainable use of
irrigation water, efforts are being made to propagate the adoption of DIM from 1970
onwards in India (INCID, 1994). Special subsidy schemes were introduced during the
eighties by the central and state governments for promoting this technology since DIM is
considered to be a relatively capital-intensive technology. Though studies using field
level data are rarely available focusing water use efficiency and water saving of DIM,
many research stations situated in different parts of the country have evaluated the water
saving capacity of DIM for different crops. We have presented the water requirements,
saving of water and water use efficiency under DIM and FIM for different crops in Table
1 based on the data from experimental stations.

Trends in Area under Drip Irrigation:

The main objective of this section is to explain the past trends in area under microirrigation
across different states in India. As mentioned earlier, though drip and sprinkler
irrigation are classified under micro-irrigation, the trends in the adoption of these new
methods of irrigation are not the same across crops and regions. While the adoption of
drip is largely found in states like Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, sprinkler
is largely adopted in states like Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (INCID, 1994;
1998 and GOI, 2004). Crops that are cultivated under these two methods of irrigation are
also not the same. Therefore, the trends in area under these two systems are studied
Drip method of irrigation was introduced in India during the early seventies at the
Agricultural Universities and other Research Institutions. The scientists at the Tamil
Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, who are considered to be the pioneers
in drip irrigation research in India, have conducted large-scale demonstration in the
farmers’ field for various crops, which received encouraging response from the farmers
(INCID, 1994). However, the adoption of drip method of irrigation was very slow till
mid-eighties mainly because of lack of promotional activities from the State and Central
governments. The formation of the National Committee on the Use of Plastics in
Agriculture (NCPA) by the Ministry of Petroleum, Chemicals and Fertilisers, Government
of India, during 1981 under the Chairmanship of Dr. G. V. K. Rao is termed as the first
milestone for the development of micro-irrigation in India (GOI, 2004). With the
establishment of 17 different Plasticulture Development Centres (PDCs) across different
agro-climatic regions in the country, the NCPA has played a crucial role in the
technological development of micro-irrigation in India.3 Besides recommending policy
measures to the government, the NCPA also played an important role in promoting drip
method of irrigation through conducting seminars focusing on micro-irrigation (GOI,
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