Major Irrigation projects in India

Major Irrigation Projects in India – UPSC Notes – Indian Geography

Irrigation is a method of watering. It depicts an agricultural process that applies a controlled amount of water to the crop field for better products as well as to the horticultural land, social forestry lands, lawns, and fields for animal grazing.

The term Irrigation originates from the Latin word moist or wet, implying the wetting or watering of something. It is closely tied to agriculture. The cropping intensity of a field relies on the availability of irrigation. Agriculture dependent solely on rainfall is termed rainfed agriculture, while that influenced by irrigation is known as irrigated farming. Besides its role in agriculture, irrigation facilitates the growth of vegetation, including horticultural crops, and mitigates soil erosion while enhancing biomass. It also has indirect benefits, such as increased groundwater recharge.

In 2019, India accounted for 48% of the irrigated land out of a total 140-million-hectare agricultural land. The remaining land is categorized as rainfed. Below are some major irrigation projects:

Major Irrigation projects

In India, the primary utilization of water is irrigation. Irrigation projects refer to engineering structures designed to collect, convey, and deliver water to agricultural lands for crop cultivation. These projects vary in scale from small to major. Major irrigation projects are characterized by their dependence on the Culturable Command Area (CCA), which signifies the area where crops are cultivated within a specific season or timeframe. A project is classified as major when its CCA exceeds 10,000 hectares. Major projects typically encompass large water reservoirs, flow diversion structures, and extensive networks of canals spanning the entire region, often including branch canals.

  • Bhakra Nangal: Completed in 1963 on the Sutlej River of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, with a CCA of 40,00,000 ha.
  • Beas Project: Finished in 1974 on the Beas River of Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan, with a CCA of 21,00,000 ha.
  • Indira Gandhi Canal: Completed in 1965 on the Harike River of Punjab, with a CCA of 5,28,000 ha.
  • Kosi Project: Finished in 1954 on the Kosi River of Bihar and Nepal, with a CCA of 8,48,000 ha.
  • Hirakud Project: Located on the Mahanadi River in Orissa, completed with a CCA of 10,00,000 ha.
  • Tungabhadra Project: Completed in 1953 on the Tungabhadra-Krishna River of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, with a CCA of 5,74,000 ha.
  • Nagarjuna Sagar Project: Finished in 1960 on the Krishna River of Andhra Pradesh, with a CCA of 13,13,000 ha.
  • Chambal Project: Completed in 1960 on the Chambal River of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, with a CCA of 5,15,000 ha.
  • Damodar Valley Project: Finished in 1948 on the Damodar River of Jharkhand and West Bengal, with a CCA of 8,23,700 ha.
  • Gandak Project: Implemented in 1970 on the Gandak River of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, with a CCA of 16,51,700 ha.
  • Kakrapara Project: Implemented in 1954 on the Tapti River in Gujarat, with a CCA of 1,51,180 ha.
  • Koyna Project: Established in 1964 on the Koyna-Krishna River of Maharashtra.
  • Malprabha Project: Implemented in 1972 on the Malprabha River of Karnataka, with a CCA of 2,18,191 ha.
  • Mayurakshi Project: Established in 1956 on the Mayurakshi River of West Bengal, with a CCA of 2,40,000 ha.
  • Kangasabati Project: Implemented in 1956 on the Kangasabati River of West Bengal, with a CCA of 3,48,477 ha.


We can conclude that irrigation serves as the lifeline of agriculture, not only in India but also across the globe. However, various states continue to face challenges with irrigation, primarily stemming from groundwater scarcity and inadequate infrastructure for water extraction. A crucial aspect closely tied to irrigation is groundwater, and the government is not only focusing on irrigation projects but also emphasizing watershed management initiatives. Through these endeavors, both government and non-government institutions aim to harvest rainwater and transform rainfed areas into irrigated lands.

FAQs on Major Irrigation Projects in India

Why is irrigation important in India?

Irrigation is vital in India to ensure consistent agricultural productivity, especially in regions with erratic rainfall patterns. It helps sustain crop growth throughout the year, increases agricultural yields, and ensures food security for the growing population.

What are the various types of Irrigation?

There are several types of irrigation methods, including surface irrigation (such as flood and furrow irrigation), sprinkler irrigation, drip irrigation, sub-surface irrigation, and center pivot irrigation. Each method has its advantages and is suited to different types of crops and soil conditions.

Which state has the best irrigation system in India?

The state of Punjab is often regarded as having one of the most efficient irrigation systems in India. Its well-developed canal network, along with significant investments in infrastructure, contributes to high agricultural productivity.

Which state has the lowest irrigated land?

States in northeastern India, such as Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, typically have lower levels of irrigated land compared to other regions. This is due to factors such as hilly terrain and abundant rainfall, which reduce the reliance on artificial irrigation methods.

Mention the type of irrigation that is most widely practiced in India?

Flood irrigation, a type of surface irrigation, is the most widely practiced irrigation method in India. It involves flooding the fields with water diverted from rivers or canals. While it is simple and inexpensive, it can lead to water wastage and soil erosion if not managed properly.

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