Mahakali Irrigation Project: Urbanisation eats into Kanchanpur’s arable landRapid urbanisation and increased migration has reduced the portion of arable land in Kanchanpur district, preventing Mahakali Irrigation Project from providing irrigation facility in the projected command area.
Rapid urbanisation and increased migration has reduced the portion of arable land in Kanchanpur district, preventing Mahakali Irrigation Project from providing irrigation facility in the projected command area.
The project had envisioned to irrigate 5,100 hectares of arable land when its construction began in 1987. However, more than 15 percent of the land has been fragmented for real estate and commercial purposes.
There seems to be no end to this problem as more municipalities are being carved out, which is leading to fragmentation of more strips of land. These fragmented land plots are rapidly seeing construction of houses and roads, reducing the portion of arable land. Mahakali Irrigation Project Engineer Mohan Tailor said, “If this trend of rapid and unmanaged urbanisation continues unabated, the irrigation project won’t even last a few years.”
Technicians said that arable land under the project is shrinking rapidly without the project concluding its third phase of works. Due to the slow pace of the project construction, land owners are lured into using or selling land for housing and commercial purposes.
Rivers and rivulets near Mahendranagar bazaar previously sought for irrigation have also either dried up or water level in them has fallen to low levels as land plotting and house construction in the area picked up pace in recent years.
According to the 2011 census, about 70,500 families in Kanchanpur district are farmers, among whom 58,000 families, about 82 percent, own less than a hectare of land. Over 8,500 families, almost 12 percent, don’t even own any strip of land. The census also mentions that about 71,000 plots of land—or around 58 percent of the total 121,000 plots of land—are made up of less than a hectare of land.
Gokul Bohora, senior agricultural officer of the Paddy Zone Kanchanpur under the Prime Minister Agricultural Modernisation Project said, “Migration from the hills to the plains have increased over the years fueling demand for real estate.” He added, “The government should enact policies and proposals to stop arable land from being used for non-agricultural purposes.”
When large projects are constructed in hilly regions, the displaced population tends to migrate to Terai, which further increases land fragmentation. Experts believe that construction of large projects like Pancheshor and West Seti will induce people from hills to descend to the plain regions in near future.
According to census in 2011, the population density of the Terai districts is at 330 individuals per square kilometres while the average of the country stands at 157 individuals per square kilometres. Population experts believe that population density in Terai districts is increasing rapidly, which exacerbates land fragmentation and reduction of arable land. Agricultural experts believe that haphazard conversion of fertile agricultural land of plains into real estate or other purposes could invite food scarcity in a near future. They argue that land fragmentation issue should face scrutiny in local levels through effective policies and implementation.