Water conservation: ‘Jalatirtha’ scheme going strong

Jalatirtha, one of the flagship schemes of the Trinamool Congress Government, was launched by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on this day in 2015 to run water conservation projects across the red laterite zone that comprises the districts of Bankura, Jhargram, Purulia, Paschim Medinipur, Paschim Bardhaman and parts of Birbhum.

The Jal Dharo Jal Bharo Scheme, announced in 2011, received a boost with the Jalatirtha Scheme, which is the signature scheme for the red laterite zone. Under both the schemes, water retention structures like ponds, tanks, rivulets have been created to hold water. Steps have been taken so that evaporation does not take place.

The Water Resources Investigation and Development (WRI&D) Department runs both schemes. It has taken up schemes linked to water conservation across a total area of 1.45 lakh acres. The water level is extremely low in these zones and water extraction is very difficult.

Under Jalatirtha, as many as 13,945 projects have been taken up in the last eight years (since 2011) in the red laterite zone, of which 141 are solar-powered.

Among the almost 14,000 projects, more than 900 – structures like watersheds and check dams – have come up under Jalatirtha, including 176 in Bankura, 57 in Birbhum, 75 in Jhargram, 427 in Purulia and 224 in Paschim Medinipur.

The Department has now extended Jalatirtha to the saline zones, particularly in pockets of the Sundarbans, which include both South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas.

Achievements of Water Resources Investigation & Development Dept

The department of Water Resources Investigation has undertaken several projects for water conservation and creation of minor irrigation facilities throughout the State.

Let us have a look at some of them:

Jal Dharo Jal Bharo Abhiyan

The Jal Dharo Jal Bharo Scheme is being implemented across Bengal since 2011 through a campaign called Jal Dharo Jal Bharo Abhiyan. This scheme, including the name, is a brainchild of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

During the last financial year (2017-18), till December 31, 31,165 water bodies and water detention structures have been created, out of which 5,937 have been created by WRI&D Department, 25,228 in collaboration with Panchayats and Rural Development Department.

From 2011 to December 31, 2017, a total of 2,27,101 water bodies and water detention structures have been created and renovated.

Expansion of minor irrigation facilities

Minor irrigation (MI) facilities have been vastly increased. By the installation and revival of 1,143 different types of irrigation schemes, viz. deep and shallow tube-wells, river-lift irrigation facilities, water harvesting tanks, surface flow minor irrigation schemes (SFMIS), check dams, solar power-operated minor irrigation schemes, etc., 36,351 hectares of irrigation potential has been created and revived.

The irrigation schemes have been implemented under different programmes, like Jalatirtha, West Bengal Accelerated Development of Minor Irrigation Project (WBADMIP – in collaboration with World Bank), Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RFID – in collaboration with NABARD), Core Sector, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), etc.

Minor irrigation projects in arid districts

In the arid districts of Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia, Jhargram and Paschim Medinipur, 351 minor irrigation programmes, with an irrigation potential of 11,708 hectares, have been completed under different projects to collect and conserve rainwater. Among the 351 are 48 check dams and 104 other water detention structures, creating an irrigation potential of 6,932 hectares.

Solar energy in minor irrigation projects

To promote the use of eco-friendly solar energy for power generation, 99 solar power-operated minor irrigation schemes, using sprinklers, tube-wells, pump-dug wells, etc., have been completed creating an irrigation potential of 1,108 hectares during 2017-18, up to December 31, 2017.

Action plan for uplifting farmers through irrigation schemes and water harvesting

The Water Resources Investigation and Development (WRI&D) Department has been able to mark its footprints in the surge of development in the spheres of minor and micro irrigation, water conservation projects, rainwater harvesting, etc.

Here are the priority areas that the department has decided to focus its efforts on: 

  • Providing assured irrigation to small and marginal farmers through the operation, maintenance and management of minor irrigation (MI) installations
  • Increasing area of irrigated land through implementing of additional MI schemes across the State, including continuing with solar power-based minor irrigation schemes in some districts
  • Implementing micro-irrigation techniques, viz. sprinkler, drip, hydram, etc. for enhancing efficiency of water usage
  • Through Jalatirtha scheme, bringing additional areas under the coverage of irrigation in the arid zone districts of Birbhum, Bankura, Purulia, Jhargram and Paschim Medinipur, in the Sundarbans regions of North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas to address the issue of salinity, and in the hilly areas of Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts
  • Through Jal Dharo-Jal Bharo scheme, implementing large-scale harvesting of rainwater in all kinds of waterbodies, both natural and artificial (implementing techniques artificial recharge of rainwater), in convergence with schemes like MGNREGS, with special emphasis on drought-prone areas
  • Better utilising surface water through implementing major medium and mini river lift irrigation (RLI) techniques, and surface flow minor irrigation schemes (SFMIS), including rejuvenating old SFMISs, constructing water harvesting tanks (WHT) and check dams, etc.
  • Implementing Command Area Development and Water Management (CADWM) Programme to reduce the gap between irrigation potential created (IPC) and irrigation potential utilised (IPU)
  • Improving governance in water management through formation of water user associations
  • Implementing all other aspects of the West Bengal Ground Water Resources (Management, Control and Regulation) Act for the proper utilisation of groundwater


Thus, through better utilisation of ground water and rainwater, implementing techniques for increasing irrigation, and improving the management of this natural resource, in general, the WRI&D Department is aiming to fulfil the aspirations of farmers across the State.

Conservation of forests – Bengal shows the way

The Bengal Forest Department has taken several significant steps for the conservation of forests. The festival of Vanmahotsav, organised by the State Government every year for a week from July 14, is an important step towards raising awareness about forests and natural resources.

This year the Government is giving away 50 lakh saplings to elected representatives and educational and other institutions across Bengal, to plant on the occasion.

The principal achievements of the Forest Department for the conservation of forests are listed below:

Banabandhab Utsav: Banabandhab Utsav is held in the districts, involving the Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMC), to boost up the protection of forests in the State. Activities held during the festivals include distribution of Forest Protection Committee (FPC) shares, giving books to meritorious students, organising cultural functions and, in some cases, acknowledging the good works of the FPC members.

Sabujshree: The Sabujshree scheme provides saplings to every newborn child. It was launched in 2016 to inculcate emotional bonding between child and nature and also provide an incentive for the future (the trees can be sold after the child attains 18 years of age to provide for educational and other needs). Till date, about 17 lakh newborns have been distributed seedlings.

Jalatirtha: This scheme is operational in the district of Purulia and in some parts of Bankura. It is being implemented in highly water-deficient areas. Check dams are being constructed in the upstream and downstream of major river catchment areas to check runoff velocity, erosion of top soil and stabilisation of downstream areas. Thirty-six projects in the forest areas of Bankura and Purulia have been completed.

West Bengal Forest and Biodiversity Conservation Project: The West Bengal Forest and Biodiversity Conservation Project (WBFBCP) was started in 2012. It is being implemented in 600 JFMCs. From FY 2014-15 to 2017-18, 18,775 hectares (ha) of plantations have been created under the scheme while for 2018, the target is 2,995 ha. Under the project, biodiversity studies have been initiated to study the population dynamics and habitat management of the elephant, leopard, tiger and gaur. Community development work in 210 JFMCs in the form of infrastructure and asset creation, and micro-financing, has been initiated.

West Bengal Forest Development Corporation Ltd: West Bengal Forest Development Corporation Ltd. (WBFDCL) has broadened its area of activity and gone hi-tech in several major activities. The corporation has initiated the greening of south Bengal, aiming 30,000 ha of plantation in wastelands over the next 10 years in partnership with the villagers. Lac cultivation is being implemented for the uplifting of forest fringe populations. This would benefit about 4,000 families. The corporation runs 19 eco-tourism centres; new ones are being constructed in Samsing (Kalimpong district), Tajpur (Purba Medinipur) and Lodhasuli (Jhargram). Besides, a Nature Interpretation Centre is being built at Ilambazar in Birbhum district to accommodate the plant fossils excavated near Bolpur.

West Bengal Wasteland Development Corporation Ltd: The West Bengal Wasteland Development Corporation Ltd. (WBWDCL) has contributed towards the development of Eco Park (Prakriti Tirtha) in Rajarhat, and the landscaping and beautification of the Salt Lake Stadium (Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan), underneath a portion of the Maa Flyover, and in the campuses of ECL, DVC, and the Mejhia and Raghunathpur power stations. The organisation has also contributed towards the beautification of areas within Kolkata Port Trust, and the promotion of angling at Banabitan Biodiversity Park, Salt Lake.

Conservation of medicinal plants: The Research, Monitoring & Development (RMD) Wing of the Forest Department has launched 14 Medicinal Plant Conservation Areas and schemes for the socio-economic uplifting of JFMCs through medicinal plants, and their value addition and marketing. The wing has developed nursery protocols for nutrient supplements, and media and environment protocols.

It has renovated the nurseries in Arabari and Sarugara, the soil testing laboratories in Medinipur and Sarugara, the Llyod Botanical Garden in Darjeeling and the ex situ medicinal plant germplasm conservation area in Amlachati, Jhargram. To ensure ex situ conservation, 435 ha of medicinal trees, herbs and shrubs have been created in south Bengal with the active involvement of JFMCs.

Presently the wing is standardising the tall seedling nursery protocol and working on forest division-wise soil mapping. The RMD Wing has also published research work – a book of 600 medicinal plants of south Bengal.

West Bengal State Forest Development Agency: The West Bengal State Forest Development Agency (WBSFDA) was set up in 2014. It is creating a new mechanism for the implementation of the National Afforestation Programme and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana-Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR). It is also working as the nodal unit for facilitating eco-tourism initiatives in the State, including the online booking at 19 eco-tourism centres.

GIS-assisted forest management: The Forest Directorate scientifically manages the State’s forest areas using geographic information system (GIS), as per the Working Plans of the various forest divisions. The Forest Department has introduced latest technologies like ArcGIS, ERDAS image processing software, AutoCAD Map 2000 software and Geo Media Professional software for the preparation of the Working Plans as per the National Working Plan Code 2014.

Thus we find that the State Government has been taking a lot of measures for effectively managing the forest areas of Bengal. As a result, forests in the State are thriving, making Bengal one of the best in the country in terms of managing and increasing forest (both natural and planted) areas.


Source: 7 Years: Chronicles of Bengal’s Progress