India must quickly expand its irrigation network and improve water usage to offset the impact of less monsoon rainfall than usual, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday, as the country braces for its first drought in six years.
More than half of India’s farms lack irrigation and millions of farmers still depend on the vagaries of the monsoon rains that run from June to September, and hit the southern coast last week, five days later than expected.
This year, the rains are forecast to be 88 percent of the long-term average, which could drastically crimp farm output.
Modi asked officials to ensure quick results for farmers by reviewing administrative mechanisms, financial arrangements and technology use in irrigation, his office said in a statement.
He also pushed for a brief, intensive effort to increase the number of farm ponds, adding that falling groundwater levels in some Indian states could force an urgent shift in crop patterns.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley last July budgeted Rs 10 billion for the prime minister’s irrigation scheme that aims to ensure irrigation for every farm.