Indo-Israel Drip Irrigation Project In Dindigul

A drive down Israel's countryside is an eye-opener. Lush agriculture fields nestle amid the desert that covers at least 60% of the country. But, slowly, the harsh terrain is giving way to fields.This is a remarkable feat, considering that the country, tiny though, gets just 300 mm average rainfall every year. In contrast, India is experiencing its second consecutive drought year and many parts of the country, including Tamil Nadu, are facing an acute drinking water crisis.Incidentally, the annual average rainfall of Tamil Nadu is 1,500 mm.

Head of Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation Gil Haskel has been quoted as saying that the most productive region in horticulture in Israel is perennially drought-prone. There is no correlation, he said, between drought and the ability to have a good harvest. India is now taking lessons from Israel, a path breaker in water conservation methods that are being borrowed by bigger and developed nations.

Micro or drip irrigation is ushering in a green revolution in Israel. Water is always in constant demand in the country with the availability of natural or fresh water just not sufficient. So Israel abandoned the traditional flood irrigation method and launched major water conservation initiatives. Today, at least 60% of its water needs are either from desalinated or recycled waste water. But the water revolution of Israel did not stop with just quenching the thirst of its citizens.

Israel's entrepreneurs went a step further. Over the years, they perfected their irrigation systems and made it a global business. They now sell drip irrigation technology to India and Africa and help farmers here grow quality crops with less water.

In the vegetable belt of Reddiyarchatram village, 16 km from Dindigul, a southern town in Tamil Nadu, the state government's horticulture project officer K Srinivasan oversees a Centre of Excellence, an Indo-Israel collaborative project. Fully funded by the Centre, the Rs.10.18 crore initiative is creating more than a buzz in the parched region. Here, the centre showcases vegetable cultivation in poly green and insect-proof net houses using drip irrigation.

Israel has helped India set up nine such centres across the country, with one more in Tamil Nadu -in Thali, Krishnagiri district -where flowers are grown. The Union government has sanctioned 26 such CoEs in all.

Subburaj Govindasamy, a farmer of Sellakuttiyur village, 30 km from Dindigul town, said he was happy with the Israeli takeaway. He visited the CoE three years ago. “I used to grow guavas. But, with the new technology, and poly houses I am growing cucumbers. I got a yield of 1.2 lakh kg,“ he said. Kerala is a huge market for his cucumbers that is sold at the big Ottanchatram market in the south. “I found that the water I used for one acre, earlier following the traditional method, can irrigate five acres now with these new technologies,“ said the 69-year old economics graduate, who has a one-acre holding in his hamlet and one acre in Sundarapuri taken care of by his son Ramesh.

Laid along a row of crops, a hose with holes positioned directly above the roots provides just the right amount of water, ensuring little wastage. The drippers that regulate the water flow are placed behind the holes.Farmers in Israel who began to manufacture these pipelines worked on improving the technology. They made the drippers more sophisticated and connected the pipelines to computers to regulate the water with precision.

“Drip irrigation is the world's most advanced technology. In flood irrigation, more than 70% water gets wasted, whereas in the drip irrigation system, there is 95% water efficiency ,“ said Counsellor -Science and Agriculture at Israel's International Development Cooperation Dan Alluf, who is based in New Delhi. Israel was keen on working with India on a larger platform, he said. On transferring agri technologies to paddy crop cultivation, which is Tamil Nadu's mainstay , Alluf said, “Our Indian partner should lead us, tell us what is required.

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