In order to improve its irrigation system, enable farmers to conserve water and increase their crop yield, Haryana government has come out with a new policy pertaining to rehabilitation, remodeling and extension of watercourses across the state.
Those watercourses that have suffered more than 75 per cent damage shall be considered for rehabilitation or remodeling. The minimum age of the watercourse, after which it can be considered for remodeling has been kept at 20 years. However, under special circumstances, 15-year-old watercourses can also be considered for rehabilitation. The oldest watercourses and with maximum damage shall be kept on top in the order of merit to be considered under the policy.
According to the Haryana Canal and Drainage Act, 1974, a “watercourse” means “any channel including all its subsidiary works, which is supplied with water from a canal, but not maintained at the cost of the state government, and is sanctioned under this Act or is in existence under an agreement or by prescription”.
The state Irrigation and Water Resources department has also formulated a detailed point system to identify the watercourses requiring rehabilitation or extension in order of merit.
As per the new policy, “(i) in case the watercourse is totally unlined, its lining will continue to be considered by Canal and Drainage Act (CADA); in case the watercourse is partly lined and the lining is less than 20 years old, it can be considered only for extension of lining from the existing length upto 40 feet per acre of Culturable Commanded Area (CCA); and (iii) in case the watercourse is partly lined and the lining is more than 20 years old, then the existing lining can be considered for rehabilitation/ remodeling and extension can also be considered upto a length of 40 feet per acre of CCA”.
Lining of a watercourse is extremely important in terms of water conservation and also leads to better crop production.
In all these possibilities, hearing under Haryana Canal and Drainage Act is required to be carried out in case of demand for lining of unlined watercourse or demand of extension in lining is received from shareholders, where the existing lined length of watercourse is less than the norm of 40 feet per acre.
“The extension is to be decided by divisional canal officer (DCO) keeping in mind the fact that the distance between two branches should not be less than five acres. DCO’s decision is required to be confirmed by SCO before processing the case for administrative approval of government,” the policy reads.
In terms of extending the watercourse, the government shall be giving preference to “pipe watercourse” for which the maximum number of points shall be kept while considering the application of rehabilitation, remodeling or extension.
“The extension in lining may be in the form of open watercourse or pipe watercourse as per feasibility,” the policy reads.
Haryana has allocated a budget of Rs 3,324.51 crore for irrigation and water resources in 2019-20, which is 6.2 per cent more over the revised estimates 2018-19 outlay of Rs 3,130.63 crore.
The state Irrigation and Water Resources department had been receiving a huge number of requests and proposals from farmers for rehabilitation or remodeling of watercourses. The CM grievances window is also flooded with such requests.
Prior to 2017, the department was dealing with such requests from time to time on first-come-first-serve basis with only one criteria, that the damage of the watercourse should be more than 75 per cent.
“In 2017, the department came up with a policy regarding rehabilitation of watercourses to streamline the process of application by the farmers and sanction by the government. While implementing it, some difficulties were faced by the department and thus the present policy of 2019 was drafted aiming to address the same. The main difficulty was faced on account of the resistance by the farmers to pay the 10 per cent contribution,” a senior officer told The Indian Express.
The government has decided that the lined watercourses shall be extended from 24 feet per acre to 40 feet per acre of Culturable Command Area, to achieve a substantial increase in intensity of irrigation in the state. To utilise surplus water during monsoon period in river Yamuna, a project costing Rs 304 crore for rehabilitation of Parallel Delhi Branch (PDB) has been approved.
In addition, work has also started on two projects for increasing the capacity of carrier systems to bring about 4000 cusecs additional water during monsoon season. These are Western Jamuna Canal Main Line Lower from Hamida Head to Indri Head, and the WJC Main Branch. These two projects are likely to be completed by June end.