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Whose interest are irrigation schemes serving in state?

All is not well with the State Irrigation Department.

irrigation

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  28 Nov 2021 2:00 AM GMT

STAFF REPORTER

GUWAHATI: All is not well with the State Irrigation Department. The department has decided to shelve around forty half-constructed irrigation projects that have bled the department dry.

Over the years, the department served the purpose of a section of contractors and officials rather than farmers. Such an attitude made the exchequer spend crores of rupees in the name of irrigation schemes that failed to see the light of the day. Some of such projects have been going on for about 30 years.

It is not all. Forty per cent of the irrigation schemes in the state are non-functional for various reasons. Irrigation schemes get funds from the Centre, NABARD, Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR), North Eastern Council (NEC) etc., but the use of such funds was not proper.

One of the reasons behind irrigation schemes not seeing the light of the day in the state is the authorities concerned selecting project sites without considering the feasibility on the ground, allegedly to benefit the contractors.

An Irrigation Department source said, "In 2019-20, the total number of irrigation projects in the state was 3,749, but 1,619 of them were non-functioning. Lack of sufficient funds for repair or non-release of such funds in time, erratic power supply, change of course by rivers, damage in channel systems etc., lead many irrigation schemes to remain non-functional.

"Many farmers in the state prefer traditional cultivation based on rainfall to irrigated water. It is because multi-cropping is still a non-starter in the state.

"Yet a section of farmers does not want to use irrigated water as they have to pay for that. They want the irrigation service free of cost. The rates of fees the department charges for irrigated water per bigha are – Rs 37.50 to water Kharif paddy, Rs 100 for Ahu paddy, Rs 20 for jute, Rs 29.60 for sugarcane etc.

"The estimated irrigation potential in the state is 27 lakh hectares of land – 17 lakh hectares through minor projects and 10 hectares through medium and major projects. As of now, the department has achieved around 60 per cent of the target."

Also Read: Tangla Division Irrigation in the eye of the storm over release of Security Deposit

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