The government of India has announced plans to borrow 860 billion rupees (AU$18 billion) from overseas to fund irrigation projects.

Crop output in Asia’s third-biggest economy has been smashed by two dry years, leading the government to undertake bold measures it says will restore as much as 13 million hectares of irrigated farmland.

“We want to use the next 10 years to drought proof the country,” Shashi Shekhar, chief of India’s water-resources ministry, recently told reporters.

“Agriculture must become resilient to climate change.”

India is rumoured to be approaching the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and various state-owned banks for loans.

Reports say ten Indian state governments are part of the plan, which will see the federal government split repayments equally between them.

Water availability will continue to be a major issue in India, even more so given that the strongest El Nino in almost two decades has brought unusual weather and damaged crops across the entire region.

Less than half of India’s 141.6 million hectares of farmland is irrigated.

Most of India’s 263 million farmers rely on rain as a major source of irrigation, but with falls recorded at 14 per cent below the 50-year average in recent years, more solid supplies are needed.

With Agriculture contributing about 15 per cent to India’s GDP and standing as the nation’s biggest employer, the live of millions are inextricably linked to good irrigation.