Interview

Naveen Mahajan: Rajasthan Adopts a Robust Water Management System for Efficient Irrigation

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Naveen Mahajan, Secretary, Water Resources, Indira Gandhi Canal, Agriculture Command Area Development & Water Utility, Government of Rajasthan

Rajasthan water sector experiences multi sectoral challenges. It broadly includes both supply side challenges as well as demand side issues. Diversity and uncertainty in water availability across state, poor efficiencies of irrigation system, limited potential for water harvesting etc. are the major issues with regards to supply, says Naveen Mahajan, Secretary, Water Resources, Indira Gandhi Canal, Agriculture Command Area Development & Water Utility, Government of Rajasthan in an exclusive interview with Kartik Sharma of Elets News Network (ENN).

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How crucial is water management for Irrigation in the challenging environment of state of Rajasthan?

Water, a finite resource, is a key driver of economic and social development and a basic necessity for maintaining the integrity of the natural environment. Rajasthan, the largest state contributing 10.41 percent geographical area of Indian union, is having meager water resources to the tune of 1.16 percent surface water and 1.72 percent groundwater resources of the country.

Moreover, within state, there is a great regional difference in water availability in both quantitative and qualitative terms. Average monsoon rainfall of state is about 531 mm which varies from 150 mm to 450 mm across 13 western districts. Further, more than 52 percent of State’s surface water is dependent on water received through interstate water agreements, availability of which is highly uncertain. Besides rainfall, water availability is also subject to interstate issues.

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Rajasthan’s water management for irrigation is evolving. Almost all the water potential has been tapped but looking at the scarcity of water and dependency on interstate water, various measures to optimise water utilisation in irrigation sector need to be taken.

Rajasthan water sector experiences multi sectoral challenges. It broadly includes both supply side challenges as well as demand side issues. Diversity and uncertainty in water availability across state, poor efficiencies of irrigation system, limited potential for water harvesting etc. are the major issues with regards to supply.

“Indira Gandhi Nahar Project (IGNP) is a grand endeavour to bring the Himalaya’s water to the deserted terrain of Western Rajasthan. It is a lifeline of western Rajasthan with main canal of 649 Km and distribution system of more than 8,700 Km length.”

Similarly, diversity in irrigation water demands and irrigation water allocations, poor irrigation water efficiencies, lack of structured budget allocations for O&M of system, constantly diminishing staff for O&M of system, lack of technological interventions for management of water, conventional farming practices, limited spread of micro irrigation system etc. are some of the critical issues regarding demand side irrigation water management.

Rajasthan is Adopting a Robust Water Management System for Efficient IrrigationSurface irrigation water allocations also vary greatly across the state as well as within the same project. In IGNP, it varies from 5.3 cusecs per 1000 acres in IGNP Stage I to as low as two cusecs in IGNP Stage II area.

Looking towards diversity in both availability and demand of irrigation water, no type cast or readymade solutions are available for managing irrigation water. The possible solution towards irrigation water management in Rajasthan revolves around Efficient Integrated Water Resources Management through participatory approach with continual efforts for enhancement of irrigation water use efficiency.

Please tell us about the key initiatives by your department towards irrigation and water management in the state.

While fresh investments in new projects are desirable, we need to take stock of already created assets. It’s high time to focus equally on management of existing assets/projects. Cost-benefit analysis shows rehabilitation of existing projects is much more beneficial. Lesser funds, shorter time, quick impact are key outcomes of rehabilitation of existing project.

Thus, besides investing in creation of new water resources infrastructure, efficiency enhancement of existing infrastructure is a top priority. On one side, construction of Major, Medium, Minor irrigation projects and water harvesting structures are being taken.

Simultaneously, efficiency improvement programmes for existing irrigation infrastructure are also given due weightage. Structural, non-structural and regulatory reforms are being undertaken for water management in state.

Special projects, for enhancement of existing efficiencies with either state’s funds or through external aid are being executed. For promoting use of micro irrigation in irrigation command areas, concept of additional subsidy for use of micro irrigation in command area is introduced in state. Top up subsidies to the tune of 5-25 percent are being given in the command area under Rajasthan Water Sector Livelihood Improvement Project (RWSLIP) covering 4.70 lakh Ha in 27 districts of State. The projects under RWSLIP also aim at seepage losses control in the unlined canals by lining them with impervious tiles. This has resulted in increased Irrigated command area and better iRajasthan is Adopting a Robust Water Management System for Efficient Irrigationrrigation water conveyance efficiency.

Under non-structural/regulatory reforms, handholding of farmers’ organisations are being tried for effective involvement of farmers in irrigation water management by forming Water Users Association (WUA) and development of sense of ownership among stakeholders.

Structured and timely meetings between department and farmers’ organisation right from grass root level to top level upto Chief Engineer level are being organised. In February 2020, more than 1,700 meetings between WUAs and department were organised.

Timely information, transparent distribution of water and assurance of water availability among stakeholders is a key towards irrigation water management. To introduce these aspects in irrigation water management, technological interventions through SCADA and latest hydro meteorological instruments are being tried.

Real- time information will be available on web portal which will enable stakeholders for timely decisions & will bring assurance. IGNP main canal is already equipped with SCADA and is being further upgraded in the light of information with respect to allocated share. SCADA is being installed on Major dams of state like Bisalpur, Mahi, Jawai, Gudha dam as well as major canal system comprising Gang canal and Narmada Main canal.

What is your department doing in integrated water resources management in IG Canal Project?

Indira Gandhi Nahar Project (IGNP) is a grand endeavour to bring the Himalaya’s water to the deserted terrain of Western Rajasthan. It is a lifeline of western Rajasthan with main canal of 649 Km and distribution system of more than 8,700 Km length. It caters more than 17.5 million population of 10 districts of Western Rajasthan with command area of 16.17 Lac Ha.

IGNP is the only assured water sources available in western Rajasthan. The system bears total dependence of drinking water and irrigation water in the area. Brief details of Integrated water resources management in IGNP includes:

  •  Drinking water supply in desert areas of Rajasthan
  •  Efficient Utilisation of water for irrigation to maximise agriculture produce in area
  •  Management of diversified irrigation water allocation from 5.3 cusecs per 1,000 acres to 2 cusecs in IGNP Stage II lift area
  • Simultaneous management of water demand for drinking, irrigation, industries, army, power sector etc.
  •  Equitable water distribution among farmers through warabandi
  • Successful rotational canal operation simultaneously maintaining drinking water requirement of the area
  • Effective participatory irrigation management
  • Transparent, real time online water management through SCADA
  • Adoption of micro irrigation system in IGNP Stage II lift area
  • Command Area Development works
  • Minimizing Water Logging
  • On-Farm development (OFD) works
  • Maintaining Water Supply upto tailend farmers
  • Integrated use of ground and surface water
  • Socio-economic improvement of stakeholders

Please tell us about the major works your department is doing to improve the state of water resources in Rajasthan.

Both supply side management and demand side management approaches are being practiced to improve state of water resources in Rajasthan.

Construction of new major projects covering Parwan project, Dholpur Lift project, Gang canal modernisation, Isarda Dam project, Navnera barrage, six medium irrigation projects and 45 minor irrigation projects are under execution. Efforts are being done to implement intra basin water transfer to improve water availability in state. Eastern Rajasthan Canal Project (ERCP) to transfer surplus water of river Kalisindh, Parwati etc. to deficit 13 districts of state.water resources in Rajasthan

Major works for enhancement of irrigation water use efficiencies includes NDB funded Rajasthan Water Sector Restructuring Project in Desert Area (RWSRPD) for rehabilitation & restructuring of existing IGNP stage I system costing Rs 3291.63 crore, JICA funded Rajasthan Water Sector Livelihood Improvement Project (RWSLIP) for rehabilitation and renovation of 137 Irrigation Project in 27 districts to treat 4.70 Lakh Ha CCA costing Rs 2,348.87 crore, Relining of Sirhind Feeder and Indira Gandhi Feeder (Punjab portion) costing Rs 1,976 crore, World bank aided Dam Rehabilitation & Improvement Project (DRIP) for restoration and rehabilitation of large dams of state costing Rs 965.56 crore, National Hydrology Project for availability of real-time hydro meteorological data, development of real time decision support system for flood, drought management, improved water use efficiency and IWRM costing Rs 128.00 crore are some major projects which are presently under execution.

Besides these, introduction of micro irrigation techniques in command area is being done. Out of total 3.48 Lac Ha CCA under IGNP Stage II Lift area, Micro irrigation works in about 1.94 Lac Ha area are being executed. Ongoing surface water irrigation projects covering 2.75 Lac Ha are being constructed on micro irrigation techniques.

What is being done to bring more transparency in the projects?

Transparency in both construction stage as well as O&M of irrigation infrastructure is being practiced. Government has enacted Rajasthan Transparency in Public Procurement (RTPP) Act to bring transparency in bidding process and same is followed in water sector too.

For bringing transparency in management of water infrastructure, use of latest technology is being introduced for availability of online real time hydro meteorological data, development of real time decision support system for flood, drought management etc.

Availability of online real time data will bring sense of assurance among stakeholders and will enable them in making timely decisions for their agriculture management. IGNP main canal covering 16.17 Lac Ha command area is already equipped with SCADA and is being further upgraded in the light of information with respect to allocated share. SCADA is being installed on Major dams of state like Bisalpur, Mahi, Jawai, Gudha dam as well as major canal system comprising Gang canal and Narmada Main canal.CBIP Award 2020

Following are the key steps which are being taken to bring total transparency in the projects:

a) Involvement of WUAs in irrigation water management and development of sense of ownership among stakeholders.

b) Uniform water distribution achieved till the tail end farmer by accurate time based warabandi system.

c) Under National Hydrology Project, real time hydro-metrological information system is being developed.

d) Canal automation and GIS based management information system is proposed to be developed.

e) River basin modelling to predict inflow in dams, sedimentation analysis in reservoirs, flood forecasting, drought management etc. is also being developed. These simulation models can also be effectively used which could lead in better decision making process.

f) Development of real time decision support tool for enhancement of water use efficiency and water distribution among various systems/ basins/canals/dams/streams etc.

g) Automation and interlinking in management of cascading dams (e.g. RPS-Jawahar Sagar – Kota barrage) in times of heavy flood like situation to minimise the economic and social losses as well as diverting the additional water towards arid regions.

h) Establishment of water resources informatics centre at regional and district level to ensure online availability of data and analysis.

Please tell us about the technology interventions in department’s initiatives.

Under conceptual changes and technology interventions, traditional flow irrigation system is gradually converted into pressurised piped irrigation methods to enhance irrigation water use efficiency. For lowering the operational cost of pressurised piped irrigation system, installation of solar power plants are being coupled with such pressurized micro irrigation projects.

“Rajasthan feeder was constructed in 1960s and due to continuous running of water; its lining work has been damaged badly and requires rehabilitation/ re-lining. Rajasthan Feeder is exclusively meant for providing water to Rajasthan.”

Traditional gravity open canals (which involve land acquisition) are being replaced by piped canal. This not only minimises losses but also retain valuable command area land for agriculture, which would have got used for construction of traditional canal construction.

Main Technology Interventions

a) Installation of SCADA, Real Time Data Acquisition System (RTDAS) which includes Automatic Rain Gauge (ARG), Automatic Weather Station (AWS), Automatic Water Level Recorder (AWLR) and real time decision support system on major dams & major canals of state.

b) Development of decision support tool for efficient usage of water for Parvati canal and Dholpur Piped irrigation project.

c) Restoration of dams to their design capacities after conducting bathymetric surveys of reservoir, under water inspection using high definition cameras, seepage analysis using new generation multi electrode resistivity method of dams from safety point of view.

d) Monitoring of river and their flow through modernised cross section survey before and after monsoon using Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP).National Water Mission Awad 2019

We are deploying latest construction infrastructure for timely execution of project. Against relining of Indira Gandhi main canal in 7.3 km length during 30 days closure in year 2018, relining of 23.12 km was done in same closure duration during 2019 and further attempt is being made to reline 43 km during same closure duration in 2020.

What efforts have been made for the involvement of farmers for farm level irrigation water management?

For farm level irrigation water management, Rajasthan Farmers Participation in Management of Irrigation System Act was enacted in the year 2000. Since then, a number of farmer’s organisations were constituted in different phases. Elections, re-elections of farmer organisations were also undertaken with passage of time. Even after lapse of about 20 years, intended objectives of introduction of Participatory management act are not fully achieved.

Development of sense of ownership, management of irrigation system by farmer’s organisation, effective involvement of farmer in decision support mechanism, generation and recovery of irrigation dues etc. are the key areas which need to be worked upon.

Some farmer organisations are performing as per intended objectives but majority of associations needs special efforts. Deficiency of structural mechanism for effective dialogue between farmers associations and department is one of the major reasons for inadequate farmer participation, recognition of farmer organisations and development of sense of ownership among them.

Through formal order, Government has provided a structured framework for organising timely meetings between farmer organisation and department. Regular meeting not only will resolve issues of organisations but will also help in developing sense of ownership among organisations.

After development of structured mechanism, more than 1,700 meetings with WUA’s were organised in February 2020 itself. WUA members are being provided with training for better management of irrigation system and cropping pattern decision making.

Inter WUA communications and knowledge sharing is being carried out to improve the capabilities of each and every WUA. Besides this, efforts are also being made to involve farmer organisations in carrying out minor of their canal system.

Your Department was recently awarded for its efficient water management. What is your view on receiving accolades from across the nation for your work?

Appreciation at National level for management of most critical resource like water motivates for further improvement. State level initiatives in water sector have been awarded at National Level by National Water Mission in 2019 and now CBIP in 2020.

National Water Mission in its first awards in 2019 awarded 1st Prize to Narmada Canal Project, Sanchore, Rajasthan under category of ‘Action for water conservation, augmentation and preservation’ and 2nd prize to Tejpura Minor of IGNP Stage II Lift area under category of increasing water use efficiency by 20 percent.

Central Board of Irrigation & Power (CBIP) awarded its CBIP award 2020 to ‘Indira Gandhi Canal Project’ for Excellence in Integrated Water Resources Management’ and ‘Rajasthan Water Resources Department’ for Effective Participatory Irrigation Management.

Receiving appreciation at National level will further strengthen the initiatives being taken by the Government for efficient water management and provides opportunity to state for showcasing its positive action and proactive initiatives on national spectrum.

Under the leadership of CM Ashok Gehlot, Rajasthan has signed MoU with Punjab and Government of India for relining the Rajasthan feeder and Sirhind feeder. Please throw more light on significance and impact of this MoU. Rajasthan feeder was constructed in 1960s and due to continuous running of water; its lining work has been damaged badly and requires rehabilitation/relining.

Rajasthan Feeder is exclusively meant for providing water to Rajasthan. It serves water to Indira Gandhi Nahar project having command area of 16.17 lakh Ha. in western Rajasthan. Besides, it also supplies drinking water to ten districts of western Rajasthan and power plants at Suratgarh, Ramgarh etc. Likewise lining of Sirhind feeder, which is a common carrier channel of Rajasthan and Punjab needs urgent repairs.

The twin canals run parallel, have a common bank and were constructed as lined (brick) channels. Safe carrying capacity of Rajasthan feeder has been reduced to 11,500-12,000 cusecs against designed capacity of 18,500 cusecs due to damages of lining works. Besides this, the adjacent areas have been affected by water logging causing huge agricultural losses. Efforts for taking up relining work in Punjab portion were made for the last many years. However, work could not be started and investment clearance lapsed. Revised approved cost for re-lining of Rajasthan feeder (Punjab portion) and Sirhind feeder is Rs. 1305.267 crore and Rs. 671.478 crore respectively.

It is estimated that relining of Rajasthan Feeder would save 560 cusec of water which would stabilise/ improve irrigation in 98,739 ha of area in Rajasthan. This will benefit the entire Western Rajasthan immensely. Relining of Sirhind Feeder would save 256 cusec of water which would stabilise/ improve irrigation in 20740 ha of area in Rajasthan and 48356 ha in Punjab.

“Under the leadership of CM Ashok Gehlot, Rajasthan has signed MoU with Punjab and Government of India for relining the Rajasthan feeder and Sirhind feeder. Please throw more light on significance and impact of this MoU.”

A tripartite agreement has been signed on January 23, 2019 amongst Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India, Government of Rajasthan and Government of Punjab for relining of Sirhind feeder from RD 119700 to 447927 and relining of Rajasthan feeder from RD 179000 to 496000 of Punjab.

Rajasthan will get 60 percent Central Assistance on these projects. As per MoU, relining of 96.65 Km of Rajasthan Feeder & relining of 100.07 km of Sirhind Feeder in Punjab state is proposed. The project is likely to be completed in next three to four years by taking 70 days closure every year.

With the continuous efforts at Apex level, Punjab has started the relining works of Sirhind feeder. Around 16.67 Km of Sirhind feeder has been relined in November-December, 2019. The finalisation of tender for relining of around 30 km of Rajasthan feeder in Punjab portion in March-May 2020 is under process of approval.

The benefits of Re-lining of canals are as under:

  •  Restoration of canals to its designed capacity.
  • Reduction in seepage losses resulting in more crop production.
  • A part of water going waste to Pakistan during filling period may be utilized.
  •  Reclamation of water logged areas.

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