Diversion-Based Irrigation Programme

Diverting water from rivers or streams to irrigate farms is an age-old practice in India. With the promotion of government-built canals, automated irrigation systems and breakdown of community bodies, this traditional system has fallen into disuse. In 2008, the Tata Trusts revived this ancient, cost-effective irrigation system in Odisha, under the Diversion-Based Irrigation programme (DBI).

DBI is a simple and economical method that uses slopes and gravity to guide the flow of water from rivers and streams to adjacent cropping areas. It is especially beneficial for hilly or mountainous terrains. The programme targets marginalised communities living in remote areas near the origin of streams.

In Odisha, DBI succeeded in stabilising kharif season paddy and encouraged farmers to take short-duration cash crops in the rabi season, resulting in 20-50% increase in household incomes. The success of the DBI programme has led to it being expanded to 13 states.

In addition to irrigation, the DBI programme works with farmers to enhance crop productivity through new methodologies, changing cropping patterns and increasing cropping-intensity. It also demonstrates the use of efficient irrigation technologies (such as drip and sprinkler) and ensures the accessibility of safe drinking water at household levels.

The programme is currently being implemented in 340 villages across 36 development blocks of 14 districts of Odisha, Manipur and Assam, covering approximately 23,500 families. Of this, 45,000 families have directly benefited from the irrigation facilities, while the other 30,000 families were covered under the agricultural extension and institutional building components of the programme. The water diversion structures generated an irrigation potential of 26,000 acres in this geography.

Key achievements

  • Formation of 340 water user groups (one in each DBI site)
  • Registration of four farmer producer cooperatives
  • Construction of 250 pipe, channel and solar-based water diversion structures
  • Promotion of revenue generating self-sustainable vegetable model including half-acre remunerative model, crop cultivation through Systems of Rice Intensification (SRI) and promotion of kitchen gardens with over 4,500 farmers
  • Establishment of covered sheds, vermi-beds and an agro-business centre to provide quality inputs to farmers

The Trusts’ future plans include the completion of the construction of another 40 DBI structures, which will help bring another 8,000 acres under irrigation, and the provision of safe drinking water to 5,000 households. The Trusts also hope to promote 150 integrated horticulture models, with components such as drip irrigation, fencing, high-value crops and protected nursery that will benefit 200 farmers.

Area of operation

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