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Irrigation Problems in Kerala

This is a brief response to the note written by M Lathika (“Water Management for Irrigation in Kerala”, EPW, 24 July 2010). I wonder how the author could make a simplistic statement that “the state government need not pump a huge amount of funds into major irrigation projects” without paying attention to the larger social benefits provided by irrigation projects in the regional context of Kerala.

The rationale of designing irrigation projects for paddy (which was then occupying almost 50% of the gross cropped area of the state) was justified in the 1960s when most of the irrigation projects were initiated in Kerala. But the presence of irrigation systems has never been a motivating factor for farmers in Kerala to make their crop choices accordingly. There are several factors that could explain this interesting behaviour of “farmers” in Kerala leading to a lack of effective demand for water, even when there is plenty of water available in the canals near their farm holdings.

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