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Nabarangpur: Getting more water for fields

It’s not that Nabarangpur is without irrigation potential. The district’s average annual rainfall is more than the all-India normal, enough for exploitation of groundwater.

Written by Harish Damodaran | Nabarangpur |
Updated: November 26, 2015 11:46:46 am
District zero, nabarangpur, Badamada village, nabarangpur water, nabarangpur borewells, Nabarangpur Indravati River, indian express, The district’s average annual rainfall of 1,569.5 mm is more than the all-India normal of 1,175 mm. (Source: Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)

Praful Kumar Nayak farms 25 acres of his own land at Badamada village in Kosagumuda block of Nabarangpur.

In 2012, he installed four borewells that can potentially irrigate his entire holding. It was done under a state government scheme requiring a minimum of four farmers to come together for drilling a cluster of four borewells, each covering five acres. In this case, Nayak got the wells installed under his own name and those of his mother, maternal uncle and grandfather. The scheme entailed the individual beneficiaries shelling out Rs 10,000, with the government bearing the rest of the Rs 3 lakh cost for each borewell, including electric substation, power lines and pumping units.

Also Read | Nabarangpur produces enough rice for itself and more

However, the scheme hasn’t been of much help to Nayak, thanks to irregular supply of three-phase power to operate the borewells. Worse, this year, the transformer in the substation got burnt in May and wasn’t repaired in time by the distribution utility Southco. Nayak, therefore, couldn’t water his fields in July and August, when the monsoon rainfall was deficient in Nabarangpur by 47.5 per cent and 24.9 per cent respectively. His paddy yields predictably suffered, with the 60.1 per cent surplus rains in June and 149.1 per cent in September not compensating for the continuous two-month shortfall over July-August.

District zero, nabarangpur, Badamada village, nabarangpur water, nabarangpur borewells, Nabarangpur Indravati River, indian express,

But Nayak is a rare farmer who, technically at least, has irrigation facility. Not even a fifth of Nabarangpur’s total area under paddy cultivation is irrigated, with the ratio even lower for maize, ragi, millets and other largely upland crops.

Also Read | In India’s poorest district, poverty doesn’t mean hunger

It’s not that Nabarangpur is without irrigation potential. The district’s average annual rainfall of 1,569.5 mm is more than the all-India normal of 1,175 mm. It gives enough scope for exploitation of groundwater, which is, of course, not possible without reliable electricity. Moreover, Nabarangpur has the Indravati River flowing through its southern boundary with Koraput district. Although originating from the Dandakaranya range in Kalahandi, much of it runs through Nabarangpur before entering into Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh and eventually joining the Godavari at Somnur  in Maharashtra.

Nabarangpur’s farmers complain that the building of the Upper Indravati hydroelectric project damming the river’s waters has hit them badly. The project’s main reservoir is, interestingly, located at Khatiguda in Tentulikhunti block of Nabarangpur, even while the water goes to irrigate Kalahandi.

“This is a unique case where the reservoir in the downstream and its water is taken upstream for power generation and irrigation in Kalahandi. Not only have our farmers not benefited, but Indravati is now virtually part of the Mahanadi basin and not Godavari, its natural basin,” alleges Jhadeswar Khadanga, a lawyer and president of Nabarangpur Krishak Mahasangha.

Khadanga believes Nabarangpur has suffered collateral damage from Kalahandi becoming the face of poverty and hunger since the mid-eighties. “The stories of famine forcing women in Kalahandi to sell their children focused national and even international attention on the district. It became a brand and all NGOs decided to set up shop there. We need to create similar awareness about Nabarangpur,” he adds.

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