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Tail-end Deprivation of the Canal Network

Water Resource Management of the Damodar Valley Corporation

The water resource management of the Damodar Valley Corporation project for irrigation purposes has been examined to reveal that illegal canal water utilisation has been increasing over the years. Water availability (per hectare) has been declining in the tail-end area compared to the head-reach and middle-reach areas in all seasons, which has led to differentiated agricultural productivity and crop patterns across different segments of the canal command area. Further, reduction of reservoir storage capacity and increased water demand for non-agricultural purposes have reduced the share of irrigation water and increased flood hazards in the monsoon season in the downstream area of the Damodar river.

The canal irrigation potential in West Bengal was 47.6% up to 1975–76, while it has covered only 23.78% area of irrigated land till 2008–09 (Rawal 2001; Ray and Shekhar 2009). On the other hand, the groundwater irrigated area was 16% in 1982, which increased to about 56.07% during the same period (Boyce 1987; Ray and Shekhar 2009). This reveals that canals as a source of irrigation have been losing importance vis-à-vis groundwater irrigation in West Bengal. According to Mitra (1996), the reasons for the declining importance of canals as a source of irrigation lies with the problems relating to the canal irrigation management as well as those associated with their construction. Construction problems are less important compared to the operation and maintenance problems for the underutilisation or misutilisation of canal irrigation potential. In most of the canal irrigation projects, when the canal command area is ready to receive the water after completion of land-levelling and construction of field channels, the users in the head-reach area are not ready to give up their cultivation of water-intensive crops like, paddy, sugar cane, banana, etc. This leads to low and insufficient irrigation water in the tail-end area. Therefore, there is an underutilisation or misutilisation of irrigation potential and inequitable distribution of water in the head-reach and tail-end areas (Wade 1976; Gorter 1989; Dhawan 1993; Gulati et al 1994; Mitra 1996). Shah (2003) termed this phenomenon as the tail-end deprivation (TED) problem.

In this paper an attempt has been made to analyse the water resource management of the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) project relating to canal irrigation and its role in the deprivation of canal water in the tail-end area of the canal network by using both primary and secondary data.1 For the primary survey, we have selected samples in the left bank main canal (LBMC) command area of DVC that originates from Durgapur barrage. It covers three districts of West Bengal, namely Burdwan, Hooghly and Howrah. The entire area has been divided into three segments, namely head-reach, middle-reach and tail-end areas.2 The sample size in each segment is 90 with a total sample size of 270. Further, we used the plot of cultivated land as our unit of survey, and the survey was conducted from December 2012 to March 2013.

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Updated On : 23rd Mar, 2020

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