On November 11 last year, a newly-constructed concrete side wall of Sason Canal at Sagunpali breached due to use of poor quality materials in construction. Irrigation officials had engaged a contractor for construction of 130-metre wall on both sides of the canal at Rs 15 lakh.
The incident is a pointer to the negligence of authorities concerned towards construction and renovation of canal network. It is also an example of the unholy nexus between office-bearers of pani panchayats and irrigation authorities for which water never reaches the targeted agricultural land.
In Talab village under Dhankauda gram panchayat, located adjoining to Gate No 1 of Sason canal, only 50 per cent of total agricultural land gets irrigation water during rabi season. Irrespective of whether the farmers get water or not, they are asked to pay water cess. Farmers of Pardhiapali, Sankarma, Dhankauda, Sarla, Gengutipali and Singhpali alleged that they are forced to pay water cess though irrigation water never reaches their land.
The problem is of a different kind in Sankarma village. Here, the rich and powerful have allegedly influenced contractors to divert canal water to their land. Only when certain channels are blocked, water flows to other areas. Similar manipulations have been reported from other areas as well. Despite protests by farmer bodies, no action has been taken to set things right.
At other places, canals have been encroached upon choking flow of water downstream. Only 30 acre of agricultural land in Bhalupali village is cultivated against a target of 200 acre as majority of canal land have been converted into homestead land. Here, water has not been channelised properly.
As per official reports, 60,910-metre Sason main canal has potential to irrigate 30,972.46 acre while its 18,075-metre Sambalpur distributary irrigates 5,678 acre. This apart, Senapali canal under Sambalpur irrigation sub-division, Burla, irrigates 1,616 acre.
But these figures are just limited to pen and paper. A reality check depicts dismal picture with the canals irrigating land far below their potential. Worse, the Irrigation wing of Agriculture Department is unmindful of the whole issue.
Sub-Divisional Officer, Sason Canal, Simanchal Sahu said the department is working in tandem with pani panchayats. Refuting the allegation that work undertaken is of inferior quality, he said sufficient funds and manpower would help them strengthen the canal system.