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WATERLOGGED LANDS IN IRRIGATED AREAS IN ORISSA NEED REDRESSAL -By Dr. Prasanna Mishra
Dr. Prasanna Mishra
WATERLOGGED LANDS IN IRRIGATED AREAS -By Dr. Prasanna Mishra
Posted By: hindtodaynews on:7/23/2011 10:17:21 PM
Dr. Prasanna Mishra
Under rain fed condition, the best lands are the valley lands. They have the best soil having been formed out of deposit of washings from the upper reaches. Percolated water eventually finds its way into these lands and therefore drought is never an issue with the fortunate farmers of valley lands. These lands retain optimal water saturation till end of December and therefore host the longest varieties of paddy. Yields are therefore quite high. Even with casual management, the farmer gets a yield of three tons of paddy per hectare; but the yield, under proper management, could be as high as five tons.
It is unfortunate that such precious natural assets, at many areas of Orissa, have degenerated into pits of misery. During my interaction on the subject with Mr. Banamali Nayak, a renowned agriculture engineer of the state, he was candid and told me, “Think of the psychology of the owners, when such lands are turned to Daldals, making it unfit for normal cultural operations. Yields have reduced to less than five quintals per hectare. This is a bright example of pushing an ill conceived technology. The concerned Department of the Government, that is the creator of this mess, hardly takes any responsibility. They seem to explain away the situation casually, stating that such a situation has arisen as a result of growing paddy in all types of land contrary to the design of the ayacut”. Reservoir technology is imported and some knowledgeable people think that it does not fit to our situation. It has been creating more problems than it is solving. One problem, entirely a creation of reservoir technology, is “Daldali”, which is the worst kind of water logging. The valley lands, which were the most productive lands under rain fed conditions, are made unfit for cultivation. The soil is converted to a kind of slurry, which looses its bearing capacity. Both man and animal sink about a meter or more, which renders normal cultural operations impossible.
In Hirakud command alone, extent of area affected by Daldali is about 10,000 ha. Other commands have their share too. “It is true that we would like to have irrigation so that productivity of all kinds of lands improves; we surely would never have desired that our best lands would be spoilt and no body would own responsibility for doing that!” Mr Nayak tells me. I agree.
In every irrigation system, substantial portion (40-60%) of the water released at the head regulator is lost during conveyance. The loss is unavoidable. The lost quantity is no doubt duly discounted to arrive at the net water available for irrigation. But the matter of concern is the ill-effect of the lost water on the irrigation command. This is yet to be effectively dealt with.
Oxygen contained in the locked up water is consumed by the flora including crops and eventually depletion of oxygen converts the locked layers to a reducing zone (one devoid of oxygen). The resulting bio-chemistry converts the soil into a daldal. Experiments for reclamation of these lands have been attempted by several scientists and it has been found that if a deep longitudinal drain is opened along the valley, the locked up soil water gets a chance to be renewed and the daldal is reclaimed into normal land.
Unfortunately open drains are damaged due to excessive runoff during rains and the treatment does not stay long. Tile drains and vertical drains are alternatives but expensive. Our irrigation engineers should not be disinclined to integrate them into normal management practice. If one perceives Government and people as two antagonistic entities such that each minds its own business then all developmental expenditure would appear uneconomic to the Government. Most of our farmers being small and marginal they would be unable to pay even the minimum amount of financial contribution in the daldali rejuvenation projects as their share. Alternatively, if the Government’s perception accepts that any government expenditure that enables people to produce more is the business of Government then the public expenditure could appear economically viable. In Orissa one of the major constraint on exploitation of ground water for irrigation had been the rigidity and myopic government’s thinking that drawing the electric line and installing the step-down transformer needed to be paid for by the farmer. The right approach should have been to view the cost of additional food grain the availability of water to the farmer would have ensured. Many states adopted such approach and flourished. We merely kept looking and blaming our poverty. There is therefore a case for the government bearing the total expenditure in worthwhile projects. Removal of water logging in irrigation commands should be one such activity.
In order to remove “daldal” we need simply to facilitate renewal of the soil water in a sustainable manner. Large number of ponds and dug wells at appropriate locations so as to facilitate pumping either to the dry canals or to the uplands will set up the needed hydraulic gradient for renewal of soil water. Pumping will pay for itself as it will promote additional cropping. Orissa commands are connoted by shallow disintegrated zones which get saturated when canals start operating. The percolated water (around 65% of the release) divides into two parts. 25% of it flows in surface drains and 40% flows out in subsurface layers. This water has to be pumped up and put to use. Deep tube wells are unsuitable because we do not have deep aquifers. There has to be surface pumping directly from drains, from large diameter dug wells sunk along the valley lands. Shallow tube wells maybe suitable in coastal commands. Tile drains may be laid in between and connected to the sunken pond/dugwells to facilitate renewal process.
We should not be averse to installation of public lift points within the command area of irrigation projects. That it would contribute to enhancing productivity should not be lost sight of. Even the advanced state like Haryana have water logging problem because their flow system is no more efficient. The difference is they have been able to find out solutions to their problem, where as we seem to have been bugged down under distorted perceptions. Haryana has solved this problem by promoting “conjunctive use” of water. They have used tube wells as a means of lifting water. There are both public and private tube wells. The public tube wells pump water back into the canals to augment tail end shortage where as private tube wells are encouraged for augmenting supply within individual holdings. Both help keep the water table low enough to permit meaningful agriculture.
Water logging in the command area of our irrigation projects has caused a lot of misery far too long. We must give the affected farmers the appropriate environment to produce more. There is need for a time-bound programme.
( The writer is a former secretary to Govt. of India )
Post Date:7/23/2011 10:17:21 PM
Update Date:7/25/2011 8:08:50 PM Validity:36500 Days
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