What plagues Maharashtra’s irrigation sector ?


Wanted: rule of law

Author(s): Pradeep Purandare, Downtoearth
Issue Date: May 31, 2013

What plagues Maharashtra’s irrigation sector

Pradeep PurandarePradeep PurandareIt is simple, true and bitter. Maharashtra’s irrigation sector is going from bad to worse. First an irrigation scam and now a drought.

The state’s irrigation statistics (see box: ‘Status of canal irrigation in Maharashtra) speak volumes. Maharashtra consciously opted for large scale public sector irrigation projects in a very big way. However, it could not get the desired success. Bad planning and design, substandard construction, poor physical status of canals and distribution network, bandobast or jugad (improvisation) in the name of operation and management (O&M), criminal negligence in maintenance and repairs (M&R), only lip service to participatory irrigation management (PIM), poor recovery of water tariff, inequitable distribution and inefficient use of water, and virtual absence of the rule of law are some of the well known reasons for the dismal performance of Maharashtra’s irrigation sector. This article focuses only on rule of law because its operative details are generally not reported and discussed even if water conflicts of all types (see box: ‘Water conflicts‘) are increasing both in numbers and severity at all levels within the state. Drought has only further worsened the situation.

Status of canal irrigation in Maharashtra (2010-11):

  • Ultimate irrigation potential (surface water): 8.5 million ha
  • Created irrigation potential (state sector): 4.737 million ha
  • Actual irrigated area (canal irrigation/state sector): 1.841 million ha
  • Investment on completed state sector projects: Rs 48,500 crore
  • Balance cost of 749 ongoing state sector projects: Rs 75,500 cr

Processes matter

Maharashtra has enacted several irrigation Acts (see box: ‘Irrigation acts in force’) to provide for various aspects of canal irrigation like construction, O&M, M&R, PIM, water tariff, compensation and, most important of all, control of water theft and unauthorised irrigation. It is needless to emphasize that all these processes are of vital importance to achieve the objectives of successful irrigation. The non-implementation of irrigation Acts means non-implementation of those processes too. That’s what has actually happened in Maharashtra. Failure to scrupulously adhere to the inherent processes has led to ad hoc decisions. Complete anarchy is the end result. It is, in fact, the genesis of the irrigation scam. The scam, in turn, has significantly contributed to virtually inviting the drought. Inordinate delays in completing irrigation projects and cultivation of sugarcane in drought-hit tanker-fed areas perhaps explain the unfortunate phenomenon.

The parent Act

Maharashtra Irrigation Act of 1976 (MIA 76) is a parent Act because it provides for foundation, frame and structure of water management in the State. Irrigation Development Corporation Acts (IDC), Maharashtra Management of Irrigation Systems by Farmers Act (MMISF) and Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) Act (See box: ‘Irrigation Acts in force’) take it for granted that MIA 76 is in force and refer to the same time and again. It is hence needless to say that the implementation of IDC, MMISF and MWRRA Acts heavily depends upon the implementation of MIA 76. Let us examine some details – first in theory and then in practice.

Water conflicts

  • Irrigation vs non-irrigation
  • Flow vs lift irrigation
  • Upstream vs downstream river basins / projects
  • Head enders vs tail enders
  • Seasonal crops vs perennial crops
  • Water resources department vs water users associations
  • Rural vs urban
  • Watershed works and small projects vs big projects

MIA 76, being a parent Act, amply provides for the following:

  1. Preparation of Rules (Section 114) to provide for the operative part of the Act and give details of day to day implementation of the Act.
  2. Issuance of River (and its tributaries) Notification (Sec 11) to bring river water under the legal jurisdiction of Water Resources Department (WRD).
  3. Issuance of Command Notification (Sec 3) to legally intimate the beneficiaries that Act and Rules of WRD shall be applicable in the notified command area.
  4. Issuance of Notification regarding appointment of canal officers (Sec 8) to specify their jurisdiction
  5. Allotment of Duties to canal officers (Section 10) and their empowerment through delegation of powers to them under Sec 110

A serious and in-depth review of the actual implementation of MIA76, however, would reveal the following failures which are inconsistent with the progressive image of Maharashtra:

  1. Rules of MIA76 have not been prepared in the past 37 years from the time of enactment of the law. The Old Rules, namely Bombay Canal Rules, 1934, and Central Provinces and Berar [CPand B] Rules are still being followed. These old rules are based on old Acts, namely Bombay Irrigation Act, 1879 and CP and B Act respectively. Old rules are, of course, not compatible with MIA76 as water management practices have naturally changed tremendously with time. The old Acts have been repealed by MIA76 way back in 1976. Not having the rules of MIA76 is the single most serious crime against water management in the state. It makes irrigation in Maharashtra vulnerable in many respects. An unprecedented legal crisis appears to be in the offing.
  2. Legal procedure regarding issuance of notifications with respect to rivers, commands, appointment of canal officers and delegation of powers is also reportedly not complete in many irrigation projects in the state. The magnitude of incompleteness can only be known if the Water Resources Department releases a white paper on the subject.
  3. The absence of rules and pending notifications has obviously taken its toll. In absence of rule of law, a “free for all” situation exists in the state. Bandobast or Jugad (improvisation) has superseded efficient and equitable water management. Conveyance losses have crossed generally accepted limits. Theft of water has become a rule in itself. Those who somehow get water seldom get it in time and in required quantity. Regular and timely canal maintenance is conspicuous by its absence. Arrears of water tariff are increasing. Diversion of water from irrigation to non-irrigation has increased. The situation is alarming. It is in fact explosive and could probably trigger the proverbial “third world war on issues related to water”.

 

Irrigation Acts in force

  • Maharashtra Irrigation Act, 1976 [MIA76]
  • Irrigation Development Corporation Acts [IDC Act-one each for 5 Irrigation Development Corporations enacted from 1996 to 1998 – total 5 numbers]
  • Maharashtra Management of Irrigation Systems by Farmers Act, 2005 [MMISF Act]
  • Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act,2005 [MWRRA Act]

PIM and water entitlement

With this background, can Maharashtra hope to implement MMISF Act and MWRRA Act, which provides for PIM, bulk water supply on volumetric basis and water entitlement? Is the state “legally” ready for such a basic change? If the parent Act itself is not implemented, it is only to be expected that all other Acts would also only remain on paper. Following facts substantiate the argument:

  1. Integrated State Water Plan [ISWP] was supposed to be ready within six months from the date of enactment of MWRRA Act. However it is not ready even after eight years. In the meantime, MWRR authority is taking far-reaching decisions which are supposed to be taken within the framework of the ISWP.
  2. The State Water Board (chairperson – chief secretary) and State Water Council (chairperson – chief minister) were constituted way back in 2005 through notifications in the official gazette as per MWRRA Act. But even after eight years, both the board and council have yet to officially begin their “historic” work. Not even a single meeting has been held so far.
  3. The proposed Lift Irrigation Water Users Association has not been formed as per the MMISF Act even after eight years.
  4. Non-profit Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management (SOPPECOM) and Lokabhimukh Pani Dhoran Sangharsh Manch, a coalition of groups working for water rights in the state, have on several occasions pointed out that water users’ associations (WUA) mostly exists only on paper. They have demanded joint inspection of WUAs. There has been no response from the authorities.
  5. MWRRA is not functioning like an independent regulatory authority. In the context of drought, in general, and release of water for Jayakwadi project from upstream reservoirs, in particular, MWRRA – the so called first independent regulatory authority in India’s water sector—has been a silent spectator for all practical purposes.

Water governance

In view of above facts it is clear that there is hardly any water governance in Maharashtra’s irrigation sector. There is an urgent need to go back to basics. Things need to be streamlined and disciplined on war footing in the larger interests of the water sector. Equitable distribution, efficient use of water and resolution of water conflicts demand rule of law. Vested interests obviously do not want it. Will civil society act and act decisively and fast?

Pradeep Purandare was associate professor, irrigation management, at Water And Land Management Institute in Aurangabad till 2011

 

#India – Work on Suktel irrigation project begins at gun point #oppression


Author(s):
Sudeep Kumar Guru
Issue Date:
2013-4-11

Balangir district authorities use police force to allow construction work as anti-dam stir continues

imagePhoto credit: Sudeep Kumar Guru Work on the Lower Suktel irrigation project in Odisha was started this week amid public protests and heavy security. Police arrested 70 members of the people’s front fighting the project as they forcibly entered the project site to try and stop the work at Pardhiapali, about 25 km from Balangir town, on Tuesday. The dam authorities had began work on the project on the Suktel river, a tributary of the Tel, on Monday. Apprehending more trouble, extra police force was deployed at the project site next day. The Odisha Construction Company officials continued with the lay out work of the spillway of the project.

At least 1,200 people of the Lower Suktel Budi Anchal Sangram Parishad (LSBASP), including women and school children, thronged the project site and protested construction of the dam spillway which they say is illegal. Those arrested included president and vice president of LSBASP, Ghunu Sahu and Udaya Singh Thakur. Superintendent of police (SP) of Balangir, R Prakash, said the arrests were made to ensure that the work of the project continues. “We neither applied any force nor did we arrest any women or children. We will see that work of the project goes on smoothly,” Prakash said.

The Rs 1,041 crore project had been hanging fire for the past 12 years due to the ongoing conflict between the pro-dam and anti-dam activists. The project, when completed, will irrigate 29,146 ha of land in Balangir and 2,684 ha in Sonepur district, covering 189 villages. Despite the arrests, people of the area said that they will continue their fight. “Let police arrest us. Still, we will come here everyday and will oppose the project work. Under no circumstances will we allow the project,” said Pabitra Gadtia, an anti-dam activist. General secretary of LSBASP, Satya Banchhor, said the government had not kept its promise. “It is unfortunate that despite assurance by the state chief secretary during the bilateral talk that LSBASP would be informed about the project status, the government had resorted to secrecy about date of commencement of the project. Moreover, the government decided to start the project at gun point,” he alleged.

LSBASP says there is no necessity of a dam. “Instead smaller traditional water harvesting structures can be made to address the irrigation problem of the farmers. The government never delivers when it comes to rehabilitation and compensation to the displaced villagers. The Rengali project and Hirakud dam projects in Sambalpur district are glaring  examples. We don’t need the dam”, said Thakur, vice president of LSBASP.

As per the project plan, the project includes an earthen dam 1,410 metre long and 36 metres high. The scheme contemplates two main canals, one taking off from right bank with a length of 25.2 km and another taking off from left bank having a length of 27 km. The net catchment area of the project is 1,130 sq km. The are that will be submerged by the project includes forestland (583 ha), private land (3,847 ha) and government land (786 ha). The reservoir will submerge 16 villages fully and 10 villages partly. The dam will be constructed at Magurbeda village about 25 km from Balangir town.

Call for fresh project evaluation, clearances
Convener of Water Initiative Odisha, Ranjan Panda, condemned the use of police force to undertake construction work. “The irrigation project’s design was approved almost a decade and half ago. In all these years, even though the government could not proceed with the project, it did not do anything either to solve the drinking water and irrigation problems of the area. The current anger and agitations are, therefore, creation of government’s apathy. The government should not delay further on this and talk to all the people, both the villagers who fear submergence and the people who are proposed beneficiaries,” he said. He added that that the long delay has rendered all approvals and clearances, including environmental clearance, invalid. The government, therefore, has got no right to continue with this project without looking at the designs and social and ecological impacts afresh, he said.

These studies should be tabled before the people, he said. The government should also work on alternative proposals and place it before the people. It is only after that any further decision on the Lower Suktel Irrigation project should be taken, said Panda.

 


Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/work-suktel-irrigation-project-begins-gun-point

 

#India- Desperate for a dam, ready to displace 100,000 people


Author(s):
Sugandh Juneja
Issue Date:
2013-1-15

Government skews facts to plan a project in Rajasthan that will displace 100,000 people

Government says<br /><br />
the proposed dam is 150 metres upstream of a wildlife sanctuary, while<br /><br />
residents say the project falls inside it

Government says the proposed dam is 150 metres upstream of a wildlife sanctuary, while residents say the project falls inside it (Photo: Sugandh Juneja)

“We will die but not give our land.” This is the cry of residents of 50 villages in Rajasthan’s Jhalawar and Baran districts. They are at risk of being displaced by a dam planned in the area for irrigation and drinking purposes. The dam will be built 120 km from Kota town in Akawad village of Jhalawar on river Parwan. At an estimated cost of Rs 1,114 crore, the dam’s capacity is 490 million cubic metre (MCM). Of this, 300 MCM is reserved for irrigation and 50 MCM for drinking (for 862 villages). The dam also has provision for supplying 100 MCM to thermal power plants.

The dam is likely to submerge 10,000 hectares (ha), including more than 1,600 ha of forestland. The state government says the dam will completely submerge 17 villages and partially inundate 30 villages. Residents allege that the government’s definition of complete submergence is skewed. “The planned dam will submerge almost 50 villages, but the government does not recognise this,” says Hari Ballabh of Manpura village in Jhalawar.

Most of the residential areas in the two districts are on a hillock, while the agricultural land is at a lower altitude. “What is the point of declaring villages at a higher altitude partially submerged if their fields and roads are going to be fully inundated?” asks a resident of Bilendi village in Baran. As a result of the categorisation, the government has served a notice under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, only in the villages termed completely submerged. The Section 4 notice identifies the area that is to be acquired for public purpose or a company. Any person interested in the identified land can file an objection against the notice with the Collector within 30 days. Akawad village has not been served the notice. Residents of the villages that received the notice have filed their objections under the name of Parwan Doob Kshetra Hitkari evam Jungle Bachao Samiti (PDKHJBS). A people’s organisation, PDKHJBS is headed by Lokendra Singh, resident of Sarthal village in Baran. “Most people have small land holdings or are landless and till someone else’s land. Where will they all go?” he asks.

A resident of Bukhari village in Jhalawar points to another problem. “Nobody is interested in marrying the youngsters of our villages because they believe we will lose our land,” he says.

Is the dam really needed?

The land in the submergence area is extremely fertile with “black cotton soil”. The common crops grown are garlic, coriander and soy. “People in the region have government-licensed pattas (land titles) for the cultivation of opium and it is well known that opium grows in fertile soil,” says Chhattrasal Singh, member of PDKHJBS. But the residents say the government has categorised their land as barren or a single-crop land so that compensation amount decreases. “The government authorities have not yet informed us about the rehabilitation and resettlement package,” informs Bhanu Pratap of Maloni village in Baran district.

Road to the 8th century Kakoni temple<br /><br />
will get submerged if the dam is built

Road to the 8th century Kakoni temple will get submerged if the dam is built

As per the dam proposal, of the total area of 0.6 million ha in Jhalawar district, 0.3 million ha is under cultivation. Of this, 0.2 million ha is irrigated. About 80 per cent of this area is irrigated using groundwater or existing anicuts, while for the rest supply comes from reservoirs and canals. “Villages in the command area of the dam use groundwater for irrigation,” says Govind Singh of Maloni. “They will want this dam so that they can save money on the electricity spent on extracting water,” he adds. Narendar Singh of Aamli village, which falls in the command area, agrees, “We are using tubewells for irrigation, so a dam is important.”

The tubewells go 90 metres deep in the area and no rainwater harvesting is practised. His son says the decision of having a dam or not cannot be based on the present situation. “We will need it in the future since the water level is going to fall if we keep using groundwater,” he says, adding, “but people should be adequately compensated otherwise it will be injustice.” Durga Daan Singh of another village in the command area is unsure. “I do not know if it is fine to have development at the cost of others. We sometimes get water from the Shergarh weir (barrier across a river) but it is causing problems since the government is not maintaining it,” he says. The weir is 10 km downstream of the proposed dam. There is another issue that is bothering residents: the dam’s water allocation provision for thermal power plants. “Adani is setting up a plant in Kawai. If water is given to power plants, the purpose of the dam will be defeated,” says Narendar Singh. Similar concerns are voiced by those in the submergence area. “More than half the water from this dam will be given to power plants. Government would not give water for irrigation,” says a Bilendi resident.

Source: Irrigation department, Kota division. Map not<br /><br />
to scale

Source: Irrigation department, Kota division. Map not to scale

According to Shambhu Singh of Aamli, only villages under total submergence zone are at a loss. “In villages that are on the outskirts of the submergence area, like Sarthal, water will retreat for some time but it will make the land fertile and irrigated without any external help. People can at least grown one crop in these villages,” he says. But people in the submergence area are not convinced. “Why can’t the government build small anicuts instead of a dam?” they ask. “If the project comes up, there will be blood, not water, in the river,” says Ganim Boh of Bilendi.

What’s at stake?

Besides submerging villages, the project will affect religious places of heritage value. For example, Kakoni, the eighth century temple in Baran, which was declared protected by the state archaeological department in 1970. The temple priest says every time the department digs up some area around the temple, it discovers new statues. “A new page of our history unfolds here almost every day,” he says. Chhattrasal Singh of PDKHJBS informs the temple is on a hill. “It won’t be submerged but all access to it will go under water,” he says. Religious sentiments will be hurt along with loss of architectural heritage, says a resident of Bukhari village in Jhalawar. The Kalla Maharaj temple near Akawad village is under threat of submergence. People offer wall clocks in the temple when their wishes get fulfilled. Umrao Singh, superintendent for Kota from the Rajasthan archaeological department, explains the importance of the temples. “These are old temples. If they are lost, we will lose our history. I hope the government has a plan in mind about giving an approach road to the Kakoni temple,” he says.

When the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was contacted to check whether the project has been granted environment and forest clearances, it seemed confused. “We are carrying out a preliminary enquiry and it appears that ‘probably’ the expert appraisal committee considered the project and granted environment clearance in September last year,” says a senior MoEF official. When Down To Earth checked MoEF online records no information on the project was found.

The planned dam, which is yet to receive forest clearance, is likely to submerge some protected forest patches.

In September this year, the Forest Advisory Committee discussed the dam project and its requirement of diverting 1,835 ha of forestland. Pointing out that the project site is just 150 metres from the Shergarh wildlife sanctuary, home to crocodiles, panthers and nilgai, the committee formed a sub-committee to visit the site. T C Todaria, an independent member of the sub-committee, says the planned visit is yet to happen.

The dam actually falls inside the sanctuary (see map). It is in Niharia block which is next to the Bilendi block. The line that demarcates Niharia from Bilendi is also the boundary of the sanctuary. People in the area and the government are at loggerheads over the dam location; while people say it is in Niharia block, the latter claims it is in Bilendi block. To resolve the issue, in June, the forest department called for a joint survey, involving the revenue and forest departments and the local community. PDKHJBS head, who participated in the survey, says the study started from Mokhampura village, walking on the Bilendi block boundary from east to west. After walking some distance, the boundary overlapped with the common line between Bilendi and Niharia blocks. The boundary of the sanctuary and the blocks was marked using the block files and pillars.

The land in<br /><br /><br /><br />
the submergence area of the dam is extremely fertile, but the government says<br /><br /><br /><br />
it is barrenThe land in the submergence area of the dam is extremely fertile, but the government says it is barren

On the next survey date, instead of starting from the place where they had left, the government officials started studying from Maloni village toward the north along the Parwan river. In their inspection report, the officials concluded that the dam site is 150 metres upstream of the boundary of the sanctuary. “The officials had a fair idea by the end of the second day that if they go according to the block file, the dam site would fall in the sanctuary in Niharia block,” says PDKHJBS head.

Residents produce a letter dated June 12 from the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) in Jaipur to the chief conservator of forests (CCF) at Kota. In the letter, the PCCF has asked the CCF to produce a report stating “the Parwan scheme does not fall in the Shergarh Sanctuary”. The CCF Kota passed similar orders to the district forest officer (DFO) at Baran on June 13. This was followed by the joint survey.

DFO Baran, P D Gupta, says the dam was initially designed to be at the boundary of the sanctuary. “At my intervention, it was shifted 150 metres away. According to their feasibility report, this was the maximum they could shift.” Mohan Lal Meena, chief conservator of forests (CCF), says the sanctuary boundary is the same as the boundary between Niharia and Bilendi blocks. He confirms:“The dam is 150 m away from the sanctuary.” Meena adds that he knows why people are against the dam. “The dam will submerge forests that have been encroached upon by people for residing or agriculture. These encroachers will not get any compensation if the project comes up,” he explains.

Chhattrasal of PDKHJBS, who was also a part of the joint survey team, says even if the project is 150 metres upstream of the sanctuary, it falls in an eco-sensitive area and needs to be dealt with accordingly. Asad Rehmani, a member of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), says there is a ruling by the Supreme Court that a 10-km buffer zone has to be maintained around all eco-sensitive areas, including sanctuaries and national parks. “No projects can be allowed within the zone,” he says, adding, “once NBWL receives the proposal, I will assess the impact and convey my opinion to the board which will take the final call.”


Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/desperate-dam

 

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