In 1993, ten percent of Uttar Pradesh’s (UP) total cultivable area was plagued by sodic soils. The soil in these areas had such high alkalinity that villagers routinely used it as soap. The dry top soil, as fine and flyaway as talcum powder, hosted no plants and the underlying hard layer allowed no trees to take root. Generations of farmers had tried coaxing a living from these sodic lands they call usar, but the soil had remained adamantly barren. Yields were less than one-third of the state’s average. Most farmers on these lands were too poor to afford the inputs needed for reclamation.
From late 1998 to 2007, the World Bank supported $194 million UP Sodic Lands Reclamation (II) Project built on the successes of the first phase of the project which ran from 1993 to 2001. The projects helped farmers prepare their fields for reclamation. They scraped the top soil, leveled the fields and built the bund, installed tubewells and dug drainage channels.