Diverting rivers or streams to irrigate farms is an age-old practice in India. With the promotion of automated irrigation systems and breakdown of rural governments, this traditional system fell into disuse. The Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and the Allied Trusts revived this ancient, cost-effective irrigation system in 2008 in Odisha, under the Diversion Based Irrigation programme (DBI). The programme has since been expanded to 13 states.
DBI is a simple and economical method that applies gravitational force to guide the flow of water from rivers and streams to adjacent fields. It is especially beneficial for hilly or mountainous terrains that are usually deprived of natural irrigation. The programme targets families living on forest fringes near the origin of streams – those left out of many development schemes and programmes. In Odisha, it has succeeded in stabilising kharif paddy and encouraged farmers to take short-duration cash crops in the rabi season, resulting in 20-50% incremental income.
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