Rupandehi irrigation project faces closureThe Bhairahawa-Lumbini Underground Water Project in Rupandehi is at risk of closure after local farmers refused to pay the hefty operating charge.
The Bhairahawa-Lumbini Underground Water Project in Rupandehi is at risk of closure after local farmers refused to pay the hefty operating charge. The World Bank-funded irrigation project was handed over to the farmers 16 years ago. It is designed to irrigate 20,000 hectares of farmland.
A total of 169 bored wells were built to supply water, out of which 65 are reported to be closed and 40 are not being operated properly. According to the District Agriculture Office, the equipment and tunnels have been ruined due to refusal of the farmers to pay their dues to the Nepal Electricity Authority. Meanwhile, some tunnels have been encroached upon.
The irrigation project had been providing underground water to 36 villages in the Bhairahawa-Lumbini area. There are three power sub-stations to pump water out of the ground and a 200-km long agricultural road. Farmers said that the problem started after the project was handed over to the their consumers’ committee with the condition that it would operate the project under the supervision of the government.
Jung Bahadur Paija Magar, the treasurer of the consumers’ committee, said the tunnels were at risk of damage due to lack of awareness among the farmers.
They have to pay a 5 percent service charge to the project management and the operator’s salary for using the water. The farmers have been complaining that the operating cost of the irrigation project is too high.
“The farmers lost interest in the irrigation project as they were discouraged by the heavy financial burden posed by the electricity demand fee, operator’s salary and other charges,” said Magar.
Birendra Harijan, a farmer from Majhadijiya of Lumbini Municipality, said most of the farmers’ electricity lines had been disconnected after they refused to pay the electricity charge. “Many of them have not used the bored wells as they were not sure about the agricultural yield after paying a lot of money for electricity,” he said. Although the farmers have been asking the concerned authorities to remove the demand charge, nothing has been done. Jaga Narayan Chaudhary from West Amuwa said the farmers could benefit only if the electricity charge, service charge and operator’s salary were waived.