Land and Water Care
Some of the measures needed to conserve land for agricultural purposes are:
There are currently several Central and State Government programs dealing with wasteland development, rainwater harvesting, watershed development, command area management, shallow tube well construction, social and agro-forestry and prevention of damage to hydrologic cycles in hill areas. There is an urgent need for convergence and synergy among these programs so that land and water conservation and use can be dealt with in a scientific and holistic manner. Land and water management problems (the term ‘management’ is used to denote concurrent attention to conservation, sustainable use, and equitable sharing of benefits) are multi-dimensional. So uni-dimensional approaches through numerous independent schemes implemented by separate departments of central and state governments will only result in inefficient and ineffective use of financial and technical resources. 1. Schedule 11 of Constitution amendment 73, relating to Panchayati Raj institutions, entrusts to Panchayats / local bodies, responsibilities for the management of land, water and common property resources. If these bodies, in which a third of the members are women, are legally, technically and financially enabled to discharge the functions listed in Schedule 11, a beginning can be made in fostering land and water management in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. There are some legislative, administrative and legal hurdles in the way of decentralized planning. Hence, it is important to address these issues immediately. 2. The existing State Land Use Boards should be revitalized and reorganized in such a manner that they can give proactive advice to farm families on land use during the south-west and north-east monsoon periods based on the following factors
If such advice is given at least several weeks before the sowing season, a proper match can be achieved between production and potential market demand. Uneconomic market interventions can then be avoided. The agro-ecological potential of every village can be utilized in an ecologically and economically optimum manner. The "Blue Box" of the Agreement on Agriculture of the World Trade Organization provides for expenditure on achieving a balance between demand and supply in farm products. Seed Banks of alternative crops will have to be established at the local level.
The reorganized Land Use Boards should also be able to develop contingency cropping patterns to suit different rainfall and water availability patterns. Thanks to the long-range weather data available with the Meteorological Department, it is now possible to develop computer simulation models of likely deviations in monsoon behavior. These can be used for formulating land use advice based on GIS maps, which also take into consideration the moisture holding capacity of soils, physiological efficiency of crops, home needs and market demand.
If such steps are taken, we can promote land use based on considerations of both ecological sustainability and economic efficiency. Since land use decisions are also water use decisions, land and water care and use are best dealt with in a simultaneous and interactive manner. For example, if the ongoing technology missions in crops like oilseeds, pulses, maize and cotton are linked to the watershed development and dry farming programs, these missions will become more effective.