Jharkhand gets first irrigation project

JHARKHAND Friday inaugurated its first irrigation network, bringing water to more than a dozen villages that have been waiting for more than three decades for the Rs 297 crore canal project to roll.

The project will channel water from Ajay river through a barrage to a 110 km long canal that would irrigate 16 villages in Jamtara district and Sikatia village in Deoghar district.

When the then Bihar government first proposed the project - it was estimated to cost Rs 10.34 crore - in 1975, farmers of these villages had come forward and offered land. The government began construction soon after but left it mid-way.

After Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar in 2000, the project was revived and Rs 351.84 crore set aside for it. The barrage was completed in 2007 but there was hardly any progress in the construction of canals and distributaries.

By the time the coalition government led by Arjun Munda came to power, the steel frame of the barrage had rusted and the partially-built canals and distributaries were in a bad state. But soon, work resumed.

On Friday, Munda inaugurated the canal. "Hope this heralds a green revolution in this belt," he said.

The project was much needed in Jharkhand, where arable land is less than 24 percent as against the national average of 40 percent. "With at least six minor and major irrigation projects near completion, we are planning to increase the irrigation coverage to 30 percent within two years," said state Water Resources Secretary S K Sathapathy.

The canal has brought cheer to farmers. "Not only kharif but cultivating rabi crops also would not be a problem now. Besides, the rise in the well and ponds level will help raise the water table which means that even if the monsoon is delayed, we will be safe next Kharif season," said Dina Nath Manjhi of Sikatia village.

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