NEW DELHI, INDIA – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $150 million loan facility to help the state of Karnataka draw up a plan to manage strained water resources in key river basins more effectively and fairly.

“Inefficient irrigation, rising demand from urban and industrial users, and climate change pose a serious threat to future water supplies and a full plan to manage all aspects of water use is needed to ensure the state has enough water to support families, farms, and businesses,” said Yasmin Siddiqi, Principal Water Specialist with ADB’s Regional and Sustainable Development Department.

The Karnataka Integrated and Sustainable Water Resources Management Investment Program will tackle a number of key sector issues including inefficient water use in agriculture. Currently irrigated farmland sucks up over 84% of the state’s total water but agriculture only contributes 16% to the state’s economy. Moreover, poor infrastructure and a lack of water-saving technologies result in substantial waste.

The program, consisting of two phases, will help staff in Karnataka’s water agencies better draw up and roll out effective river basin management plans. The agencies where staff will get training include the state Water Resources Department, Advanced Center for Integrated Water Resources Management, Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd, and a number of water user cooperatives.

Assistance under the first phase will be used to modernize the Gondi irrigation system. The second project will target irrigation improvements in Vijaynagara canals and the Tungabhadra Left Bank Canal.

Improving irrigation efficiency is expected to generate water savings of 1,700 million cubic meters for use on an additional 160,000 hectares of farmland. Annual farm incomes are also projected to rise by as much as 50% for some marginal households as a result of increased crop production, and about 1.5 million people could benefit overall.

The ADB funds will be provided in 2 tranches with the first amount of $31 million, earmarked for project 1, and the balance in the second project. The full program is expected to be completed by late 2021.

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