Money spent like water, but fields still parched

Unscientific modernisation of Bhadra canal has denied water to crops downstream

A modernised sub-canal near Malebennur in Davangere district. DH PhotoOnly 80 per cent of the work on the Rs 961-crore project started five years ago has been completed. Water is provided to 2.5 lakh hectares of land from the Bhadra reservoir through the right canal. The reservoir was constructed near Lakkavalli of Shimoga district 50 years ago.

Though 2,650 cusecs of water flows through the canal,  10,000 to 15,000 hectares of land downstream were deprived of water for the  past 15 years. The modernisation work of the 100.52-km canal began in 2006-07, as a result of the decades-long struggle by the farmers under the banner of Bharatiya Raitha Okkoota.

Though the modernisation was to be completed in two years, this could not happen due to  the unscientific methods adopted. The farmers also had to forego two crops when the modernisation work was taken up.

The project deadline was then extended to 2011. But even now, when the project period has already completed five years, only 80 per cent of the work is done and the fields downstream are still parched.

Drawback

The biggest drawback in the implementation of the project has been that steel has not been used in the prescribed quantity. There is, hence, no stability for the canal structure and the concrete is already coming away. Though the government woke up to the reality belatedly and ordered for damage control measures, it has been of little use.

“Steel rods have been used in the construction work in gaps of one metre, instead of one foot. That the four-km stretch of the canal gave in near Anaberu of Davangere taluk six months ago is evidence of the poor quality work. Even though the matter was brought to the notice of Satyamurthy, the manager of the Neeravari Nigam, no corrective measures were taken and faulty work continues,” says Narasimhappa of the Okkoota.

Another drawback in the implementation of the project is that the contractors are undertaking piece work. Work is being undertaken only during the three-month interregnum between two crops, thereby affecting work quality. Though work on the last 60 km of the canal is over, the first 40 km is still a problem area.    

No action has been taken against people drawing water through illegal pumpsets and also repair work of sub-canals has not been taken up. All these factors are adding up to deny water to farms in the lower reaches of the canal, according to Tejaswi V Patel of the Federation of Bhadra Water Users Co-operative Societies.

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