The Holy Grail of Khuga Dam : Promises vs Plight
Contd from previous issue
All the three intended primary objectives of irrigation, electricity and drinking have met with failures. Agricultural farmers are faced with an irrigation ire. Unfortunately, the purposes and promises of the dam do more harm than good. The prominent irrigation issues due to lack of proper maintenance of the canal system. The sub-standard canals break when the water is released from the reservoir. Hardly any 25 kilometres downstream of the right side canal is functional while the remaining parts remain dry. Like drinking and electricity purposes, agricultural objectives have come to naught.
The Khuga Dam Right Side Canal Farmers Association (KDRSCFA) had to vent out their frustrations over insufficient supply of water to their farmlands. The Association was formed by farmers living in Misao Lhahvom village and its vicinity villages of Churachandpur district.
According to the Association, the right side canal should ideally serve over 900 hectares of land. But, hardly 300 hectares are served and had witnessed a breach in the canal repeatedly in the past. They had approached the concerned department, but to no avail citing lack of fund ! The farmers themselves collected a Rs. 1000 per household and some pledged to contribute the value of selling their food grains, with little assistance from the District Administration.
The right side canal famers protested in 2018 against the non-provision of water in their farmlands. They witnessed many breaches in the canal: the first one on 16th March, 2009 in a portion of the canal between Lingsiphai and Tangmual, leaving a side-opening of 40 ft., and another one on 18th June, 2016 at Moulbem village. In July 2019 Chairman of KDRSCFA, Seikhopao Misao warned the State CM, IFCD Minister and the CE of the department of a hunger strike, “So, we have no other options left but to stage an indefinite hunger strike”, adding that the need to call for such measures was due to the lackadaisical and apathetic attitudes of the Government. After having done in their own capacity they came to realise that the problem was beyond their capability, hence required Government intervention.
Worst is that barely 4 months after its inauguration, the left canal experienced a severe breach on 8th December, 2010 and again on 9th February, 2011 at Kawnpui area and in 2014.
The eastern canal also was shattered during a trial run of about 3.1 km from the dam site on 9th July, 2008. The left canal is said to be totally non-functional. Thus, the target of 15,000 hectares of land irrigation still remains a pipe dream. Electricity is one of the principal public utilities. The electricity woes of the people of the district remain unsolved until today even while a great deal of hope was pinned on Khuga Dam to address the issue. The installed quantum of water is sufficient enough to generate a target of 7.5 MW of hydroelectricity (SANDRP).
Hydroelectricity generation plant is installed by RN Sinha and Co. while the dam, canals and spillway were designed and constructed by NPCC.
As of today, not a single unit of electricity has been generated. Neither any powerhouse for generating electricity exists, nor any machinery installed except for that of a tunnel at the mouth of which has been blocked. Media reported that generators and the turbines to generate electricity were already auctioned and there is no investigation to ascertain these facts. IFCD had confirmed in 2016 that revenue generated from the dam since its commissioning is simply nil.
Churachandpur is infamous of its water scarcity during dry season. It has had a series of dire situations related to drinking water. To provide quality drinking water is one of sole purposes of the multi-purpose hydroelectric project of Khuga Dam. The project administration claims that it provides 1.2 million gallons per day (MGD) of water to the residents who have in turn contested strongly the claim of the Project.
A water treatment plant is constructed on a hill-top close to the dam. The plant draws water from the left canal and treat it for drinking purposes. The water treatment plant cannot function now at an optimum level, and quality water for drinking is yet to see the light of day. The machineries of the plant are lacking state-of-the-art technology. While the project serves neither of other two purposes (agriculture and electricity) and nor does drinking purpose, therefore need is not felt for constructing the dam. Water could have been drawn from the undisturbed Khuga River directly through whatever means, be it traditional method that gives no threat to lives of any kind.
Taking advantage of the malfunction of water supply, private players are booming in investing on drinking water in the town and vicinity, the likes of which are ESTEE WATER, PUPU-TE WATER, etc. to name few. If the Government could play a role in providing drinking water at a subsidized rate, competition in pricing of water among private investors would have been high.
At least the left canal has to be refurbished, failing which pumping of water from it won’t work out. Moreover, the water treatment plant will not function until and unless water is drawn into the plant. The low hanging fruit would be to make the left canal function effectively so that failure of water treatment plant can be overcome. The functioning canal would at best carry required quantity to each household of the target beneficiaries.
(To be contd)