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Water works in focus under MGNREGS as drought hits India

New Delhi : The sustained thrust on water conservation under the Centre's flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) saw an unprecedented 15.47 lakh water-related works getting completed during 2016-17.

The previous financial year not only marked a new high in the number of water-related works taken up, but also saw renewed thrust from several state Governments in undertaking region-specific unique water conservation initiatives.

Even as large parts of India, particularly in the south, struggle with growing water scarcity, the Centre said under the MGNREGS, large scale drought-proofing water conservation works in rainfall deficient regions were undertaken.

An official statement said the 15.47 lakh works completed during 2016-17 included 5.66 lakh farm ponds in various states. Also, close to 90,00,000 hectares of irrigation potential was created during the previous two financial years - 2015-16 and 2016-17.

The Centre has directed the states to ensure that not less than 65 per cent of the expenditure in 2264 identified water-stressed blocks should pertain to water conservation and water management during 2017-18.

Last year, Rajasthan saw MukhyaMantri Jal Swalamban Yojana to drought proof 3200 villages with 92000 water conservation structures, dobhas or farm ponds in clusters in every revenue villages of Jharkhand, NeeruChettu in Andhra Pradesh with thrust on farm ponds, Mission Kakatiya in Telengana, Kapildhara dug wells in Madhya Pradesh, Jal YuktaShivar and other water conservation measures in Maharashtra.

All the states used MGNREGS as a resource for drought-proofing for livelihood security, the statement said.

The Centre has started preparing an annual performance outcome report of MGNREGS. Also, an independent, multi-institution, multi disciplinary evaluation of all the water conservation works taken up during the 2015-17 period under MGNREGS is being undertaken.

The report, likely to be ready by September 30 this year, will spell out the impact that the water-related works had in various states.

According to the statement, for the first time, deprivation levels of states were taken into account while approving Labour Budget under the MGNREGS.

During April-July 2016, an unprecedented demand for work on account of the continued drought was seen. Thereafter, on account of a good monsoon in over 75 per cent districts, the demand remained concentrated in drought-affected regions like Karnataka.

MGNREGS achieved 230 crore person days, which is higher than the revised labour budget. The total provisional expenditure of Rs 58,056 crore (Centre and state) is the highest ever in MGNREGS in any year.

During 2016-17, there was considerable emphasis on completion of incomplete works. More than 56 lakh works were completed during the year, a record high since the inception of the programme. Nearly 68 per cent of the expenditure was on agriculture and allied activities.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and Department of Land Resources, Mission Water Conservation guidelines were issued. As many as 22 states held state-level workshop on Mission Water Conservation with representatives from all relevant departments including Central Water Ground Board (CGWB) and State Remote Sensing Centre.

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