Micro irrigation can be way out for rainfed agriculture and small land holding in India. In this reference, discuss the advantages associated with micro irrigation, initiatives taken by government and challenges associated with it. (250 W)

Mentors Comment:

The question is quite straightforward in its demand. It expects us to explain what micro irrigation is and thereafter, give reasons for its importance to a country like India. In the last part, briefly mention the initiatives taken by the GoI, challenges and issues with those initiatives and the solution to fix them


In the intro, give a brief introduction to status of irrigation in India and highlight that micro irrigation is gaining currency.

In the main body:

  • Explain what micro irrigation is – Slow application of water on localized volume of soil by surface drip, subsurface drip, bubbler, and micro sprinkler systems.
  • Explain its importance for India – allows judicious use of water for a water stressed country like India. It also helps to save fertilizer consumption per unit of land etc
  • The second part of the main body will have two components: Programs by GoI for micro irrigation, issues with them. Dont explain the schemes in details. 


Lastly, discuss the status of micro irrigation in India and highlight the steps through which micro irrigation in India can be promoted.


India’s 60% agriculture land is rainfed and do not has assured irrigation Infrastructure, however rain fed agriculture account for 40% of cereals production, more than 90% of pulse and oil seed production. It also accounts for more than 70% of BPL population of India thus if micro irrigation is promoted in the rain fed region, it can significantly contribute to the food security and elimination of poverty especially among small, marginal farmers and landless laborers.

Micro irrigation:
Micro irrigation is a scientific method of irrigation carrying desired water and nutrients direct to the root zone of the plant, drop by drop. The system has extensive network of pipes at operated at low pressure. At pre-determined spacing outlets are provided for emission water generally known as emitters

Advantages of Micro Irrigation Systems:
• As a result of the low-application rate of irrigation systems, water is applied slowly allowing it to be absorbed rather than quickly result in surface runoff.
• It reduces salinity hazards to plants. Minimizing the salinity hazard to plants irrigated by drip irrigation can be attributed to dilution of the soil solution’s salt concentration, elimination of leaf damage caused by foliar salt absorption with sprinkler irrigation.
• Drip irrigation offers considerable flexibility in fertilization. However, fertilizers must be completely soluble in water in order to be distributed evenly through the drip system.
• Labour and operational costs can be reduced by simultaneous application of water, fertilizer, herbicide, insecticide, fungicide and other additives through the drip irrigation system. Localized dry and wet patterns facilitate these simultaneous operations.
• One key differentiator for micro irrigation is that when compared to other irrigation infrastructures, micro irrigation presents a quick-win opportunity for all the stakeholders where the implementation can be seen on ground within months. Developing other infrastructure takes years while bringing area under micro irrigation is a task that only requires a few months.
• Further drip irrigation systems can be easily automated where labour is limited & expensive using simple automation equipment such as electrical, mechanical or battery-operated time clocks that activate pumps and solenoid valves at selected time during the day.
• Not only will the low-application rate reduce operating costs, the lower operating pressure means a reduction in the pumping head requirements, which will result in pumping energy savings.

However the following issues need to be tackled:-
Micro-irrigation program in India is fraught with a risk of failure. This is because the program is ill-conceived, not holistic, and disintegrated from the basin/watershed perspective.
The meager farm income from declining landholdings challenges the sustainability of expensive micro-irrigation on Indian farms because farmers now have to invest further to replace obsolete components of drip/sprinkler systems such as filters, clogged pipe network, electrical/electronic components, pumps, silted water bodies etc., all of which are not covered in any of the governments’ financial schemes.
Another impediment to micro-irrigation in India is the expense of the system itself.

Government Initiatives:
• Recognising the importance of micro irrigation, the government has taken various initiatives since 1992. The first real thrust however came in 2006, when the government launched a Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for micro irrigation. This was later upgraded to the National Mission on Micro Irrigation (NMMI) and was implemented through the year 2013-14.
• For the year 2014-15, NMMI was subsumed under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) and was implemented under the On-Farm Water Management (OFWM) component of the scheme.
• Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) was launched in 2015, integrating micro irrigation in the flagship scheme as an integral component. The scheme focuses on providing an end-to-end solution to the irrigation supply chain.
• Apart from various schemes, there have also been large-scale projects taken up at the
• State level that have seen success for example Gujarat Green Revolution Company (GGRC) and Andhra Pradesh Micro Irrigation Project (APMIP). The common thread running through these are the presence of a team dedicated to promoting micro irrigation and strong information technology (IT) backed operations.
• A micro-irrigation fund under National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD) will be set up with an initial corpus of Rs 5,000 crore.

What More Needs To Be Done?
Alternatives such as the cultivation of low water intensive crops in place of water intensive crops across arid and semi-arid regions of India, virtual water trades, and water markets cause real water savings with little cost is necessary.
Governments have to prioritize planned cropping patterns backed by stringent laws and administrative capacity to monitor cultivation of less water intensive crops.

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