Indira Gandhi Canal repair accomplished in record time

It would bring an additional water supply on downstream and save on considerable seepage losses

June 21, 2021 11:25 pm | Updated June 22, 2021 05:05 am IST - JAIPUR

Repair work of the canal in progress.

Repair work of the canal in progress.

In an engineering feat, the repair and relining of the Indira Gandhi Canal, the country’s longest canal which terminates in irrigation facilities in Thar desert, was accomplished in a record 60-day period amid the second wave of the pandemic, restoring 70 km of both the main canal and the feeder distributaries. The work was taken up mainly in Rajasthan and partly in neighbouring Punjab.

The project was a race against time, as the repairs required closure of the canal system, which directly impacted the drinking and irrigation needs of 1.75 crore people as well as numerous cattle, Army cantonment along the International Border and industrial usage in the border districts. Thousands of workers and officials worked round the clock with strict COVID protocols to achieve the target on time.

After the relining of the 23-km stretch was taken up in Punjab on March 30 this year for execution in 60 days, it was a Herculean task for Rajasthan, which being on the downstream had only 30 days to repair a stretch of 47 km. The State government worked out a water contingency plan for two months for the affected areas and defined a strict deadline for the feeder and main canal.

The safe carrying capacities of Indira Gandhi feeder had dropped from 18,500 cusecs to about 12,000 cusecs over a period of time, while more than 1,000 cusecs of this was being lost in seepage. An initiative from Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for rehabilitation of the system received support from his Punjab counterpart, as the lining of the canals had been severely damaged because of continuous flow of water.

Farmers’ dependence on the Canal is at the minimum during the post-rabi crop season and before the onset of the kharif season, when the maintenance work is usually taken up. “However, never before were the works conducted on this massive scale or for such a long duration in the canal,” Naveen Mahajan, Principal Secretary, Water Resources, told The Hindu on Monday.

Though a tripartite agreement for the project was signed among the Union Ministry of Water Resources and the Rajasthan and Punjab governments on January 23, 2019, for rehabilitation of Rajasthan and Sirhind feeders, the pandemic-triggered lockdown halted the process after rabi season in 2020.

When the work was finally taken up during the modified lockdown, as the second wave of pandemic surged across the country, the officials were better prepared for the situation. Mr. Mahajan said the relining of 47-km-long stretch in the State was successfully executed at a cost of ₹238 crore during the 30-day closure period between April 29 and May 28.

“After accounting de-watering and desilting, only 22 to 25 days were actually available for the work,” Mr. Mahajan said. Nearly 13,650 cubic metres of concrete was laid on each day, as the feeder canal has bed width of 40 metres with the side sloping height of 11.5 metres. A three-shift and round-the-clock work plan was executed for the first time in the canal.

Mr. Mahajan said an effective management had helped the project to prevent outbreak of the virus infection and led to the achievement of target within the stipulated time. This would bring an additional water supply for the people on the downstream and save on considerable seepage losses, he said.

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