A much ambitious World Bank-funded irrigation channel overhauling work, maneuvered by the state Irrigation department has been halted by the state forest department here yesterday on the charges of felling a number of trees illegally.
This stalling of work may cause interruption to irrigation water supply, scheduled to reach the farmlands from 26 December.
The divisional forest authorities in East Burdwan have seized the uprooted trees along with an earth moving machine from the spot at Chaitrapur village near Burdwan town, yesterday.
A hunt for the machine operator has also begun.
The local forest ranger received a tip-off that the government-backed contractor agency engaged for overhauling of the irrigation network has already fell some trees beside the canal banks.
Based on the field report from the ranger, the divisional forest authority ordered immediate suspension of further work.
Nisha Goswami, DFO, East Burdwan, said, “Besides felling, some people there were also trying to sell the logs, which our officials prevented.”
The irrigation department engaged Mackintosh Burn, a government-owned construction company for the overhauling work. The ground supervisors of the company said, “We’re trying to stabilize the soil in the canal bank but the trees started falling automatically. We’ll send a report on this, too.”
On 15 May, 2020, the Centre, the West Bengal government and the World Bank signed a loan agreement for $145 million project to improve irrigation channels and flood management in the over 60- year-old Damodar Valley Command Area (DVCA), which was gasping for a modernisation and upgraded value addition for long.
The West Bengal Major Irrigation and Flood Management Project is aimed to benefit about 2.7 million farmers in five Bengal districts cultivating on 3.94 lakh hectares with better irrigation services and distinctive protection against annual flooding to mitigate the impact of climate change.
The key challenges the channels in DVCA face include degradation of infrastructure and inadequate irrigation management, including poor quality of service delivery, inefficient irrigation and the failure to serve the middle and the tail parts of the canal networks, forcing the tail end farmers to extract ground water.