Removal of Shrub

Main drain deepning

Giving Vegetal cover for main drain

Picture Of hope

Winter sorghum

Crop Cultivation in Saline Soils

Cultivation of Salt - tolerant grape varieties in saline soils
Desalination Of Land

According to a survey made in 1996 it is estimated that in Maharashtra State 2,00,000 hectares of excellent agricultural land is affected by salinity. Non-coastal saline soils occur in low and moderate rainfall zone of Maharashtra. The causes of this kind of soil deterioration are :
i) Low rainfall coupled with impeded drainage condition in heavy deep black soils.

ii) Low lying situations receiving salt washes from uplands and causing upward salt movement

iii) Indiscriminate use of irrigation on heavy soils and over-emphasis on perennial irrigated crops.

With each passing year salinity is spreading to new areas. It needs to be tackled systematically. Reclamation of such soils is rather difficult because they contain highly expanding type of clay. However, by means of a systematic approach reclamation is possible. A technological package needs to be developed for this region on the basis of systematic data. Sangli district is chosen for in-depth study and for implementation of a pilot project.

In absolute terms salinised area in Sangli District is reported to be 54,000 hectares.

Choice of Kavathe Piran
Kavathe Piran village is situated 12 km. west of Sangli town. It is a part of the chronically affected area which lies between Krishna and Warna rivers. In 1997 and 1998 the salinity affected area of the village (800 hectares) was taken up for treatment by Verala Development Society (VDS), pursuant to the request made by the village Panchayat to Shri Arun Chavan. The villagers were asked to form a representative committee. The committee collaborated with VDS and the Villege Panchayat.

The members of affected families willing to actively participate in the project is 446. They are from different social strata, including depressed classes, minorities as well as caste Hindus. The project implementation committee represents all these sections.

Technical expertise
Two experts, an agronomist and an agriculture engineer, attached to the Agriculture Research Station, Digraj, which is a part of Mahatma Phuley Agri. University have provided technical know-how to the Project.

The survey made in 1995 has revealed that the entire stretch of salinity affected track of Kavathe Piran has all the three types, namely, (i) saline (ii) saline-sodic and (iii) sodic. The three represent three progressive stages of soil sickness. Saline soils can be reclaimed with the application of physical correction measures, that is, water flushing. In regard to saline-sodic and sodic soils chemical correction measures alongiwith water-flushing is necessary.

The reclamation programme consisted of physical correction of the land. The 6 km. long Main Drain (The Nalla) and the two subsidiary drains were deepened by excavators. Excavated silt was spread on either banks of the drains to an average breadth of 200 meters on each side. The thick jungle of throny shrubs was swept aside. About 400 hectare area was thus cleared and levelled up. The Main Drain functioned optimally from May 1998 onwards. One hundred hectares in the proximity of the Drains are under regular tillage by the farmers and near normal yields are produced.

Particulars of Field Activity
(1) The project commenced on 1.5.1996. In the first part a demonstration area of 100 acres at the upper reaches of the Main Drain was taken up.

(2) The second part which covered treatment of the entire 6.0 km. length of the Main Drain which falls within Kavathe Piran land area was taken up on 1.1.1998 and was completed on 1.3.1998. The programme comprised (a) deepening of Main Drain (b) removal of shrubbery and (c) levelling of lands on either bank with an average breadth of 200 meters each. The following quantities were involved.

(1) Earth Work

(a) Deepening of Main Drain

i) Main Drain : Length-- 6.00 k.m. approx.

ii) Subsidiary drains :
Length -- 2.40 k.m.
2400 mtrs.

Av.Breadth -- 3.00 Mts.
Av.Depth -- 1.50 Mts.
Quantity 10,800.00 Cu.M.

Total 22,800.00 Cu. M.

(b) Spreading of excavated material
Total qty as above ------- 22,800 Cu.M.
+ Work done by Local Sugar Factory

6000 X 8.00 + 2.00 X 2 = 60,000 Cu.M.
----------- Total 82,000 Cu.M.

I. In demonstration Plot No. 1 underground drainage system was laid in January 2000. Its design was based on the surveys and studies made in 1999. In November 2000 and in October 2001 wheat was sown on one plot. The per-acre wheat yield was 0.60 tonne which came to the near average yield from normal soil from similar agro-climatic zone. The demonstration amply proved that the plot under treatment was free from salinity.

In demonstration Plot No. 2 horticulture varieties were planted. The rootstock of Dogridge Grape and Saltcreek Grape were planted in January 2000. In November, 2001 the first crop of grapes was gathered. The per acre yield was 2 tonnes. The second year’s grape harvest was sumptuous : In March, 2003 the per acre yield that was registered was 5 tonnes; and its quality was excellent.

Significance of this successful trial cannot be over-stated. The experts from the National Horticulture Research Institute, Hyderabad have visited the demonstration site and have opined that this was the first successful trial of its kind on saline soil in India.

The young farmer from the village Uday Suryavanshi has planted 3 acres of Thompson seedless grapes on his farm which lies within the salinity affected zone of Kavathe Piran. In April, 2005 he will take his first crop. Our personal assessment is that the per acre quantity would be 10 tonnes of excellent quality grapes. Another young farmer from the same village named Pirgonda Walavade has planted half an acre of seedless grapes and the trend is likely to grow.

Development of Technology
Desalination methods used in the plains of North India need to be modified in view of the topographical features of the Deccan Plateau. It can be said without fear of contradiction that we have developed efficacious method of desalination of the saline lands in the river valleys of the Deccan Plateau.

(I) Project sustainability will flow from long-term functionalisation of the natural drainage system. For this purpose, the rational unit of treatment is the local watershed. A local watershed straddling the landmass between the ridge and the river or a big stream with a stable flow-channel, is the Nature-made unit for desalination operation. The distinguishing geo-physical property of the watershed is its well-marked boundaries. A watershed acts as a receptacle of water which flows into it, either as groundwater, or in the form of run-off or as excess generated by surface irrigation. The excess from it can flow out of it only through the drains made by Nature or by man. In their absence it will remain static within its confines. The landmass of the Deccan, is divided into river valleys, and these valleys in turn comprise a series of local watersheds. Treating them as separate units for the application of the desalination process is both a rational and economical method. This method also affords ample scope for farmer participation which is essential for safeguarding the sustainability principle. Watershed-wise application of the corrective procedure guarantees sustainability to the desalination project as it is in harmony with soil property and water behaviour in the given conditions.

The concept of watershed-wise treatment of saline lands has emerged out of the practical experiments carried out by VDS between 1996 and 2003. It is a solution pertinent to the problem as viewed in the geo-physical situation and the context of the farmers’ socio-economic status, which is defined by small size of land holdings (ranging between 1 to 10 acres).

(II) Efficacious method of achieving sustainable desalination largely depends on long-term functionalisation of the Main Drain and its subsidiaries. That in turn depends on obviating the frequent need for desilting and deepening of the drains. Because it is prohibitively expensive and well beyond the organisational and economic means of the beneficiaries, the farmers.

As a result of experimentation and elaborate consultations we came to the conclusion that ferro-cement panelling of the Main Drain, with suitably placed inlets for the inflow of groundwater, is the most practicable answer. Panelling will arrest siltation and clogging by weeds. The proposed use of ferrocement technology is an innovative solution. The merit of this technique is its cost-effectiveness and versatility. It is labour intensive and amenable to decentralised production mode, thereby considerably reducing or neutralising the transport cost.

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