Hyderabad : The Andhra Pradesh government Friday signed an agreement with the government of India and the World Bank to launch a Rs.10.44 billion ($254 million) project for restoring 3,000 minor irrigation tanks in the state in five years.
The World Bank is providing $189 million or 75 percent of the total cost of the community-based tank management project as loan while New Delhi has sanctioned the remaining 25 percent of the cost as grant.
The project aims to improve the physical and operational performance of about 3,000 tank systems with a command area of about 250,000 hectares, secure the safety of the tank structures and improve on-farm water management and efficiency.
The loan agreement was signed in the presence of Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy and World Bank representative Salman Zaheer at a ceremony here Friday.
The agreement was signed by Madhusudan Prasad, joint secretary in the union ministry of finance, S.P. Tucker, principal secretary in the government of Andhra Pradesh, and Salman Zaheer.
Chidambaram said Andhra Pradesh was the second state after Tamil Nadu to enter into this kind of agreement with the World Bank to rejuvenate, renovate and restore water bodies.
He said a scheme was announced in 2004-05 to restore half-a-million water bodies in the country.
According to the minister, water bodies were created by then rulers and many of them were natural water bodies. "Over the years they were neglected, shrunk in size, silted, bunds were not maintained and their channels were encroached upon," he said.
"This is a community based programme which empowers community, increases productivity, profitability of agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and livestock."
Rajasekhara Reddy said the tanks in 21 of 23 districts of the state would be rejuvenated and restored under the project. He said the project would improve the storage capacity of the tanks.
Water users' associations would be formed under the project to ensure proper maintenance of the tanks he said, trying to allay apprehensions that the government planned to burden the farmers with additional taxes.
The chief minister said the project would empower the farmers by enabling them to improve the management of their groundwater resources, thereby enhancing agricultural productivity and livelihoods.
The chief minister said his government planned to spend Rs.60 billion on minor irrigation in five years.