Andhra Pradesh

Neglect tells on irrigation canals in East Godavari

There is no regular maintenance of the Samalkot Canal due to shortage of laskars. —Photo: K.N. Murali Sankar  

The issue of optimum utilisation of available water resources is often coming to the fore in the Godavari delta, with the low water levels in the river posing a challenge to farmers in undertaking the rabi crop of paddy every year. Though the canal system is complete and modernisation works are under way, absence of manpower to ensure proper distribution of water from the main canals to the distributary canals is giving scope for loss of water in the distribution network.

The canal network is about 8,000 km in the Godavari delta putting together the East and West Godavari districts. Though the engineering officials are in sufficient numbers, acute shortage of ‘Laskars,’ a post created by the British to ensure checking and cleaning of canals at the village-level, is causing difficulties in the water distribution. The water released into the distributary network from the main canals is not reaching the end users in the given quantities, owing to lack of supervision at the ground-level.

Following the construction of Dowleswaram Barrage and creation of delta canal network, the British created 1,452 posts of Laskar and engaged men on duty. The Laskars have to report to the irrigation clerks and submit reports from time to time about the condition of the 5-6 km stretch of canals allocated for them. Regular inspection of the canals, undertaking maintenance works such as removal of week and de-silting, ensuring release of water even to the farm fields at the tail-ends formed part of the duty chart of the Laskars.

At present, only 376 Laskars are working in the entire Godavari delta, as 1,076 posts are vacant. Non-recruitment of staff in the vacancies owing to retirement has affecting badly the Laskar system and the water management at the village level. “Most of the complaints from farmers from the rural pockets can be addressed by the local Laskars. The absence of Laskars is affecting the functioning on the department in many ways,” admits S. Sugunakara Rao, Superintending Engineer from the Irrigation Department.

“The government accorded permission to recruit 100 Laskars on a temporary basis to work for four months during the rabi season. The Water Users Associations (WUAs) concerned can appoint 35 Laskars in the Central delta, 45 in the Eastern delta and another 20 Laskars under the Yeleru project,” explains Mr. Rao.

However, filling only 10 per cent of the vacancies, that too on temporary basis, is raising many questions about the future of the Laskar posts.

“Laskar is not a part-time job or a seasonal job. He has to monitor the canals continuously. Instead of recruiting men on temporary vacancies, the department can avail the services of workers on non-muster rolls,” says V. Venugopala Rao,retired engineer from the Irrigation Department.



Acute shortage of Laskars to ensure checking and cleaning of canals at the village-level, is causing difficulties in the water distribution



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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 8:02:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/neglect-tells-on-irrigation-canals-in-east-godavari/article7993806.ece

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