People appeal to administration to increase subsidy for borewells
Anantnag: More than 50 percent of apple orchards in Pulwama district lack irrigation facilities, and remain completely dependent on rainwater, which affects the productivity as well as the quality of the apple produce.
The situation gets uglier in critical periods when the weather remains dry, especially between March and September when the orchards need to retain moisture for a better crop, quality-wise as well as quantity-wise.
Pulwama district is a heavily horticulture-reliant economy with more than 15,800 hectares of land under apple cultivation. The annual apple production surpasses 1.73 million metric tonnes in this south Kashmir district.
“This produce can be bigger and the quality better if the apple orchards are irrigated in a proper manner,” a source in the horticulture department told Kashmir Reader. “Imagine getting this kind of a product even after fifty percent of the apple orchards being devoid of irrigation,” he added.
He said that the issue gets worse in orchards located across Karewas of Pulwama district, including in Awantipora area, Tral, Koil, Khrew, and some other places. “The orchards in these areas are completely rain-fed and have no other source of irrigation,” the official source said.
He added that at least seventy percent of apple orchards located over the Karewas are devoid of any irrigation facilities whatsoever. “Which means if there is a dry spell, which most likely is the scenario every year, their crop is going to get severely affected,” the official said.
Locals told Kashmir Reader that the authorities have been lax on the completion of many important irrigation schemes in the district, which adds to the woes of the apple farmers.
“Canals are in bad shape and do not irrigate the land they otherwise could have. Besides, the slow work on some irrigation schemes is also a major roadblock,” the locals told Kashmir Reader.
Some people are now turning towards digging borewells inside their orchards, but the government does not provide sufficient subsidies for that and it is a costly affair to maintain a borewell inside the orchard, especially at higher altitudes.
Chief Horticulture Officer (CHO) Pulwama, Javaid Ahmad, acknowledged that irrigation was a major obstacle in bettering the production and quality of apples in the Pulwama district.
“It is an issue through almost fifty percent of the orchards,” the CHO said. He said that the government does provide a subsidy of fifty percent for digging borewells, but the ceiling for the subsidy is only 90,000 rupees while at higher altitudes the cost of making a borewell extends to well over 3 to 4 lakh rupees.
“We are working on it and in a phased manner we might be able to get the issue fixed in our district,” he said.
The people meanwhile have appealed to the administration to increase the subsidy for borewells, particularly in Karewas of the district. “It will be hugely beneficial and the quality, as well as quantity of our apples, will improve greatly,” the locals said.