Too Few Drops To Drink
comprised of vast districts that are again considered the most backward in
India, the Bundelkhand region has been in news in recent years for agriculture
crisis caused partly by prolonged drought and erratic weather conditions. The
region is spread over about 69,000 sq km in seven districts of Uttar Pradesh (Chitrakut,
Banda, Jhansi, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Mahoba and Lalitpur) and six districts of
Madhya Pradesh (Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh, Damoh, Sagar, Datia and Panna).
While the situation requires carefully planned irrigation
projects, in reality, corruption and distorted planning is raising project
budgets without bringing the expected benefits to people. A study of the
Kachnauda dam and canal project in Lalitpur district made by this writer with
the help of several social activists revealed that while the project cost
increased several times following revision, local villagers are now resisting
the project as they claim it would disrupt their lives. An earlier version of
this project presented in 2007 cost Rs. 89 crore; the cost, however, escalated
to Rs. 425 crore in the revised version.
The earlier version aimed at diverting the canal water to a
dry existing canal of an earlier project with minimal adverse effects. The
changed version unnecessarily constructs an elevated canal over a long distance
parallel to the existing dry canal. Moreover, the elevation of the new canal
would be 25 feet or even higher — making it a potential hazard for nearby
villages. Sticking to the earlier plan could have saved the exchequer around Rs.
Residents of Bamhori Sehna village said that they were not
informed of the elevated alignment plans. They said that seepage from the canal
will destroy their kutcha houses and fields situated at a lower level. The
embankment will create a barrier dividing fields and temples on both sides.
Normal drainage will be badly affected leading to a greater threat of
water-logging and floods and eventual destruction of agriculture. While
construction work will affect the land fertility in the area, a century-old tank
would also be badly damaged due to deep trenches that are being dug to scoop out
soil using heavy machinery.
People of about six villages with a total population of about
10,000 would be affected. These villages in the Bar block include Bamhori Sehna,
Bhailoni Lodh, Bar, Motikhera, Dasrara, Bachravni and parts of Turka village.
In the same block, a check dam on Farari nullah was
constructed at the cost of about Rs. 13 lakh with very little water conservation
benefits whereas same or better results could have been obtained by giving
finishing touches in the form of two gates to a previous project at the same
site at a cost of just about Rs. 5,000 or so.
Courtesy : The Hindu