Prasanta Kumar Dash
Angul, Oct 14: The Manjore Medium Irrigation Project in Angul has been proved as utter darkness at the foot of lamppost for the Athmallik-based farmers.
The Manjore Irrigation Project constructed at Manarbeda village under the Athmallik Sub-division in Angul district has failed to fulfil the dreams and aspirations of the agrarian community, living around the medium irrigation projects even after 27 years of its inception.
The gigantic lake-like reservoir-based water resource, spread over around 64 square kilometers area is yet to address the water scarcity of the local farmers in alleviating severe drought situations and thirst of people in the summer season, as no lucrative master plan has been envisioned, for sustainable irrigation system or safe drinking water project from the sources.
Most of the villages around the Manjore reservoir, situated on its upper catchment with having thousands of farmers, especially paddy croppers here are the least beneficiaries of the project. They can’t utilize a drop of the water for irrigating their crops, even in the delayed or failing monsoon, due to no adequate canal network upstream. Rather they have shared the lion’s share of their farmlands for the makeover of the project with a low or no compensation from the government.
Similarly, a lot of farmer-dominated villages situated at the lower end of the project, approximately 50-100 meters from the central spillway, deep dyke and the water-suffice abutment, are the worst sufferers beside the multi-crore irrigation project.
Thousands of farmers of Saragishreni, Madanpur, Sorisapanga, Nuagon, Sandhapur, Lunahandi, and Kampala villages, who are living within 2-3 kilometers away from the bulk of the reservoir, are deprived of any irrigation system and village drinking water project. Acres of paddy fields wither away almost every year in case of low rain or acute drought due to faulty delivering canal network, planned and structured in the area. Even, tens of thousands of acres of paddy fields situated in the hilly regions and on highlands remain uncultivated and barren in the nearby villages in case of irregular or weaker monsoon rain, despite they are a few meters away from the main canal and the high-pressured water exiting head siphon.
Trinath Sethi, a traditional farmer living in the Sarigishreni village said,“ I couldn’t plant paddy saplings in the field this year due to scarcity of water. The plant seeds prepared for around 2-3 acres were damaged due to delayed monsoon. Had there been a small spillway from the underground canal of the project, passing through our village, could have solved our problem for good. We can double our paddy cropping along with other cash crops round the year.”
“However, we grew old, now a sexagenarian, are yet waiting for the little privilege from the water resources department”, he added.
Social Worker Jagannath Mahakud said the Manjore project is pulling thousands of cusecs of water in the rainy season from the upper valley of the Panchadhara Hill, the Manjore River, and the Malipadar stream. Apart from it, it is substantially fed by the floodwater of Mahanadi during incessant rain. However, the water resources reserved here are almost of no use for the denizens of Athmallik, due to non-completion of the canal networks as per the Detail Project Report(DPR).
If it’s managed well by the authorities, its ocean of water could irrigate miles of farmlands, making even the Boinda and Jarapada areas greener, he added.
The Manjore project was taken up in 1996 with the financial assistance of NABARD under the aegis of the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF). The initial estimate of the ambitious irrigation project was Rs 37.70 crore, but the inordinate delay escalated the cost to Rs 420 crore. However, the left side of the canal is yet to be completed. The irrigation project was expected to provide water to 6775 hectares of land in the Kharif and 4336 hectares in the Rabi season.
An irrigation official said that, presently irrigation facility is being provided to at least 5713 hectares of land in Kharif and 2000 in Rabi season. Efforts are still underway to provide better irrigation facilities to an additional 2013 hectares after completion of the expansion of the main canal. Subsequently, funds worth Rs 72 crore were sanctioned for the purpose.
Recently, a budgetary provision of Rs 3355.78 crore was allocated on March 1 for the execution of 3 major and medium irrigation projects wherein the Manjore Extension Project is at the top of the list.
If the proportionate contribution will be utilized for extending the essential canal networks and comprehensive spillways of the Manjore Irrigation Project for the needy areas, it will benefit the farmer community permanently bringing lush green crops and vegetables throughout the year.