BENGALURU: The State government has drawn up plans to construct over 56,000 ponds across Karnataka -- the highest in a year -- under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which would provide irrigation and help replenish ground water while providing employment to those who seek it. In 2013, the then Siddaramaiah government introduced the Krishi Bhagya scheme under the Department of Agriculture and included the construction of ‘krishi honda’ (farm pond to harvest rainwater) in its ambit.
Between 2013 and March 2020, around 1.18 lakh such ponds have been built across the State. In 2019-20, the construction of these ponds has been done under the MGNREGA, through which 16,303 structures were built. Principal Secretary for Rural Development and Panchayat Raj L K Ateeq told The New Indian Express, “The number of people enrolling under the MGNREGA has increased after the lockdown was announced.” Official figures on July 14, show that for the current fiscal year, the State government has sanctioned 56,632 ponds, over half of which have been finished and the rest are in various stages of completion.
“We cannot take up bigger construction works as they require more people and maintaining physical distance matters. So, we are building ponds that require 4-20 people. The fewer the people, the longer it takes to build. This year is a record. We are building over 56,000 ponds,” Ateeq said. The rain water harvesting ponds are 10x10 metres or 9x9 metres and three metres deep. They are being built as kalyanis -- step tanks -- and can store water for up to three months.
“After the monsoon, this water can be used to water crops. Farmers can also sow short-duration crops such as coriander, horse gram, green gram, or vegetable which can be harvested in about 60 days,” said Rajegowda, former registrar of the University of Agricultural Sciences, and an agriculture expert. “If they are effectively constructed and used, they can recharge groundwater too.”