With 4000 solar pumps installed in 2012-13, Rajasthan’s solar pump programme
is the largest in the world. The solar powered pumps are creating sustainable
livelihoods in dry areas by integrating water harvesting and drip irrigation
innovatively, increasing the resiliency of rural areas.
The state of Rajasthan has 10 per cent of India’s land, 5 per cent of its population
and only 1 per cent of its water resources—a disadvantage by a factor of ten for
supply of irrigation water vs agriculture area. Acute water shortage, erratic rainfall
and recurring droughts in every district have exacerbated the situation. Over 60 %
of the population depends for livelihood on agriculture or horticulture, often marred
by low productivity due to unreliable, inadequate or non availability of irrigation. About
70 per cent irrigation is done through wells or tube-wells energised mainly by grid-power
or diesel generators. Approximately 60,000 farmers are waiting for grid-based electricity
connections for irrigation. Extension of electric-grid is not feasible in far-fl ung areas; almost
70 per cent area in the State is classifi ed as desert. Moreover, ground water has deteriorated
rapidly in the last two decades. Out of 249 blocks, nearly 200 are in the highly critical zone.
Almost 90 per cent of groundwater withdrawal in the State is utilised through fl ood or
furrow-irrigation methods with mere 35 to 45 per cent water-use-effi ciency. Rajasthan is
blessed with one of the best solar insolation on earth (6-7 kWh/m2/day) combined with
maximum sunny days in a year, about 325, which makes it one of the most attractive
destinations for harnessing solar energy for various purposes, especially irrigation (Fig. 1).
It was thus envisaged that an integrated solar water pump scheme formulated by
combining various stand-alone government schemes would be indeed benefi cial for the
region as well as its farmers. Subsidies available under various programmes were clubbed
and the State committed to grant the total subsidy upto 86 per cent of the capital cost.
Th e departments of agriculture, fi nance and energy of the State, and Union government’s
ministries for Agriculture (MoA) and New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) worked in
tandem along with various stakeholders to make it is seamless and successful project.