RAJBIRAJ, Aug 11: A vast area of crop field was damaged after an embankment along Nepal´s oldest canal gave way on Friday in Sunsari district.
The early morning collapse of the embankment submerged over 50 bighas of paddy fields (roughly 20 acres) in Kanchanpur VDC of Saptari district and inundated almost 100 bighas of land after breaching the canal, called Chandra Nahar, which was built 85 years ago.
The locals have alleged that the breach of the embankment resulted mainly due to the negligence of the management that oversees the Koshi Pump Chandra Nahar Irrigation Management Division.
The locals said they had noticed a fissure on the embankment in Kanchanpur VDC-4 early morning. They then tried to inform the authorities about the problem but no one responded to the repeated phone calls to the division office in Rajbiraj.
“We found nobody who could fix the problem,” said Kiran Paswan, a resident of Kanchanpur VDC-1. “The fissure grew in size and the water flooded all our lands.” Paswan said the embankment had worn out as the concerned authorities never cleaned it up even once in the last 10 years.
According to Badri Yadav, chairman of Chandra Nahar Water Users´ Group, many paddy fields have been rendered useless by the silt deposited by the flood in its wake. “Also, a large area of fertile land has submerged under water,” said Yadav.
A team of technicians led by engineer Ramesh Kumar Chaudhari on Friday inspected the site of river breach. Chaudhari said the fissure on the embankment cannot be repaired until the flow of water in the canal recedes.
Although the authorities closed the main gate through which the river flows into the canal, erosion of embankment continued till Friday evening. The water swept away almost a 25-meter stretch of the canal embankment.
Chaudhari admitted that the embankment gave way because the canal was not cleaned up for a long time due to the lack of budget. “Now, it is very difficult for us to operate the project even when the water flow is just half the capacity of the canal,” Chaudhari said. “We have urged the concerned authorities to allocate adequate budget for repair of the canal. But, our pleas have so far fallen on the deaf ears.”
The government allocated Rs 8.5 million in the last fiscal year, but the amount, Chaudhari said, was simply insufficient for repairing the entire canal. “Last year´s budget was just enough for repairing a 3-km stretch of the main line, a 4-km stretch along Odraha section and a 8-km stretch along Barmajhiya section,” he said.
The canal, which was completed in 1985 BS, was built to facilitate irrigation in 10,500 hectares of land. As the condition of canal deteriorated over the years, the project now has the capacity to irrigate only 10 hectares land in rainy season and 6 hectares in winter.