Examine the different methods of irrigation practiced in India and bring out their relative importance.

Irrigation is referred to as the procedure of supplying adequate water to plants and crops. It helps to grow agricultural crops, maintain the fertility of soils in arid zones, and during the time of the shortage of necessary rainfall.

Irrigation in India

Irrigation in India is practiced through canals from Indian rivers, groundwater, well-based systems, tanks, rainwater harvesting, and other modes for agricultural activities. Out of them, the groundwater system is the largest mode of irrigation.

Methods and benefits

The methods of irrigation depend on different factors like availability of groundwater, nature of the soil, slope, diversity of crops. In India, three types of irrigation are being practiced i.e. Wells and tube-wells, canal, and tank irrigation. Apart from that other modes of irrigation that are being practiced are spring irrigation, Kuhls, sprinklers, drip irrigation, etc.

  • Wells and tube-wells irrigation is a significant type of irrigation in the areas adjacent to the Satluj-Ganga plain. It accounts for about 64% of the total irrigated area in India. Itis the easier and cheapest mode of irrigation and can be used whenever needed. It helps to enrich the soil with nitrate, chloride, sulphate, etc. It is very beneficial during drought and arid conditions.
  • Canal irrigation was more popular during the very beginning of the 1950s. It is used in about 30% of the total irrigated area. In the areas of low leveled relief, the area with the availability of surface drainage, it is beneficial. Canal irrigation is found in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, etc.
  • Tank irrigation is mainly practiced in the peninsular region. It accounts for about 5% od the total irrigated area. Other than the irrigation purpose the tank could be used for pisciculture.


Climate change, uneven distribution of rainfall, groundwater depletion, drought are the big problems that India faces every year. Considering the issues and taking into account the condition of soil moisture, types of crop, area coverage, proper implementation of irrigation systems should be ensured by the concerned authority.

Question for UPSC Mains:
Examine the different methods of irrigation practiced in India and bring out their relative importance.

Published: October 28, 2015 | Modified:September 15, 2020