Rs22b irrigation scheme for Tarai-Madhes plannedThe government has planned to address recurrent problems of drought in the southern plains by launching a scheme entitled Prosperous Tarai-Madhes Irrigation Special Programme to provide water to parched farmlands.
The government has planned to address recurrent problems of drought in the southern plains by launching a scheme entitled Prosperous Tarai-Madhes Irrigation Special Programme to provide water to parched farmlands.
The programme will be implemented particularly in eight districts in the eastern and central Tarai that constantly suffer from poor rains leading to a sharp drop in paddy output—Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Rautahat, Bara and Parsa.
The Ministry of Irrigation on Friday told the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resources Committee that solar-powered shallow tube wells would be an appropriate and viable solution to increase agriculture production in these areas unless big irrigation projects are developed.
The ministry has planned to allocate Rs4.44 billion annually for the five-year programme. “Solar-powered shallow tube wells will ensure round-the-year irrigation facility in these districts,” said Rama Nand Prasad Yadav, director general of the Department of Irrigation.
In the long term, the government has proposed to develop the Sunkoshi Marine Diversion Multipurpose Project to provide irrigation facility to the central Tarai districts.
Nepal has so far used 33 percent of its ground water reserves, officials of the ministry’s Groundwater Resources Development Board told the committee. They said that ground water irrigation could fulfil the requirement of water for agriculture in the Tarai districts.
According to the ministry’s statistics, the area of farmlands with irrigation facility stands at 1.36 million hectares out of a potential 1.76 million hectares. However, only 18 percent or 300,000 hectares have round-the-year irrigation facility.
Agriculture, the major contributor to Nepal’s economy, is mainly rain-fed. Heavy reliance on rain water and limited irrigation facilities have led to lowered outputs that adversely affect the country’s economy.
Yadav said that a solar-powered water pumping system initially costs more than a diesel or electric powered pump, but requires far less maintenance and labour.
Shallow tube wells appeal more to small- and medium-scale farmers due to their low capital investment. However, lack of electricity to run them has left farmers with no option but to go for solar pumping systems, he said.
Gagan Thapa, chairman of the committee, said that special emphasis should be laid on solar water pumping systems. “In the long term, we need to develop big projects; but for now, utilizing groundwater would be wise,” he said.
“If solar-powered water pumping systems are a viable option, the government should carry out pilot projects in a few districts,” Thapa said. If they are found to be economically viable and suitable to fulfil the needs of farmers who suffer from frequent droughts, we can develop them on a big scale.
Request to double budget
The Ministry of Irrigation has asked the National Planning Commission to increase its budget by more than double to Rs48.71 billion for the next fiscal year. The ministry received Rs20.55 billion for this fiscal year.
The ministry said that it would be launching 12 new projects and programmes besides continuing national pride projects in the next fiscal year and thus would require a lot of money.