Pani panchayats to manage tanks, pay a part of the cost
A WORLD bank-funded project to rebuild irrigation tanks across Orissa to improve agricultural productivity and provide livelihood support to villagers may flounder like several such schemes in the past. The Rs 546-crore Orissa Community Tank Management Project (octmp) is being implemented in 29 of the 30 districts, including the most backward Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput belt.
Nine hundred water tanks capable of irrigating 120,000 hectares (ha) have been identified by the government for repairs. Once they are ready, they would be handed over to water users' associations, or pani panchayats, for maintenance. The project, to be completed by 2013, will make the water users more responsible; they will have to pay a small part of the cost of construction and volunteer labour.
"Making the villagers stakeholders in the project is a good idea, but motivating the pani panchayats to pay this amount is not easy. In larger projects where costs are high, people would be very reluctant to pay," said Manmohan Pradhan, executive secretary of Agranee, one of the key non-profits involved in the execution of the project in Mayurbhanj district.
Of the six pani panchayats Agranee is working with, only two have deposited the money so far. In Scheduled Areas, like in Mayurbhanj district, the panchayats have to contribute two to three per cent of the cost of the civil works while those outside the Scheduled Areas would have to pay five per cent of the cost.
Lack of awareness made it extremely difficult to motivate the members to pay, said Sarat Chandra Mahant, secretary of Tangabila pani panchayat in Mayurbhanj. "Most of them want to know why they should pay for a government project despite holding several meetings to make them understand that the irrigation system will be a common property," Mahant added. The bigger challenge, however, would be to train the associations to manage the tanks and irrigation canals, said Surendra Kumar Sahu, deputy director of Water and Land Management Institute (walmi) in Cuttack. "The biggest challenge is improving the system. Experience shows that pani panchayats failed to manage schemes handed over to them because they did not get adequate training and knowledge," said Sahu. Usually the training programmes are carried out hurriedly and villagers find themselves unable to manage the system, he added.
Many are not aware of the exact nature of the project. All that P Apparao, treasurer of Polinaidu Tank Water Users' Association of Kidigami village in Gajpati district, knows is that some work will be carried out at the two tanks in his village. "If it is for our good, we will pay what they ask for. But till date no one has told us how much is to be paid," said Apparao.
The project has four aspects--improving tank systems, extending livelihood support, institutional improvement and project management. Institutional strengthening involves training of members of the water panchayats responsible for implementing the projects along with government agencies like walmi and the Institute of Management On Agricultural Extension (image).
"They will train the pani panchayats to manage the tanks, distribute water and assess crop requirement," said Sanat Mishra, the project's livelihood expert. Nine hundred of the 3,646 large irrigation tanks in the state were selected after considering the demographic profile, hydrological feasibility and commitment of the respective pani panchayats.
|Tanks are critical to villages in the impoverished Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput belt|
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