The canal irrigation system is very old in Haryana. For ages, ground water and canal water have remained the primary source of water supply for potable and other non-potable uses in the state. It is believed that the first irrigation channel was constructed during the Mughal era and the first legislation for irrigation and drainage was in 1873.
Yet, Haryana is living on an edge so far as its water management is concerned. No initiatives are taken to tackle a fearsome scenario of a severe water crisis in the state. Sloppy government decisions mean that is against the projected demands of about 40.7 BCM (billion cubic meters) for the state's all-water usage for the year 2020 AD, the ultimate potential is pegged at only 27.95 BCM.
The state government is yet to rise from its slumber. It just keeps crying about a self-coined conspiracy theory to deprive Haryana of its share from the Bhakra Dam without initiating any action to get it through the Hansi-Butana canal.
On the Satluj Yamuna Link (SYL) canal project too, the state government has done nothing more than mere lip service. All these years, it sat on the project and it was only when the Opposition parties took a tough posture last month in the state assembly on the issue that the government decided to constitute an all-party delegation to seek direction from the prime minister to take up the construction of the SYL canal at the earliest.
The mega-crore Mewat Canal Project too has languished for years. The Planning Commission had cleared the project, meant to provide uninterrupted irrigation to about 2,50,000 acres of arid land in 300 odd villages of the Mewat areas of Gurgaon. A timely completion of the project would have brought great relief to the people of the region where agriculture is mostly rain fed.
Similarly, the state government has failed to accord top priority to proposed Sharda Yamuna Link Project for linking river Sharda, a tributary of river Ganga with river Yamuna so that water requirements of Yamuna sub basins can be met with.
The state government is also dragging a Rs 5-crore canal drinking water scheme for Sonipat. Once constructed, this canal was expected to supplement the demands of both drinking and irrigation water.
The Haryana government has hardly managed to upkeep the irrigation infrastructure in the state which have been existing since long. Its myopic planning has resulted in inadequate maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure, leading to its deterioration.
The state government has also turned a blind eye to the various loopholes in Haryana Canal & Drainage Act, 1974. There is no attempt by the state government to identify sources other than the Water Union Associations which are working only on their contribution of share money from members. Just the amount of share money is enough for routine maintenance work but is not adequate for long-term sustainability. For this, a definite source of revenue needs to be identified, which the government has failed to.
Besides, studies show that in Haryana, the much-celebrated wara bandi (rotational water supply) system designed to minimize head-tail inequity has eroded beyond redemption. The government has not done anything on this count too. A case in point is the canal irrigation system in Sirsa. Considering the availability of irrigation facilities, Sirsa district has a relatively favourable condition. Yet, the supply from the upstream is often not sufficient to provide adequate water at all the time. Moreover, the irrigation water, whenever available, is supplied to the farmers at fixed rotations. This also means that the current wara bandi system, needs a relook so as to ensure that there is no inequitable water distribution among the farmers, thereby affecting the productivity of canal water use.