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Reservoir waits for historic day

The water resources department is looking to inaugurate the Durgawati reservoir project in Kaimur this month after failing to meet the June 16 deadline set earlier.

The reservoir project would entail irrigation facility for the west Bihar districts of Kaimur and Rohtas considered as the state’s rice bowl.

Water resources minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary told The Telegraph: “I would not say that we have failed to make the Durgawati reservoir operational on the said date. I had said the reservoir was likely to be opened on June 16, as work was going on. Even now I would say that the reservoir could become operational by July 7 or July 15. It is one of the oldest irrigation projects in the state. We are not in a hurry to open the reservoir without completing all the necessary work.”

Around May, the minister had announced June 16 as the date to inaugurate the project.

Work on the reservoir project was resumed in 2012 after seven years when the water resources department complied with most of the conditions laid down by the Centre to approve the project.

The Durgawati reservoir project was conceptualised in 1975 and after several hiccups, a major part of the work was completed in 2005. The Planning Commission had sanctioned Rs 25.30 crore in 1975 and then Union agriculture minister Jagjivan Ram laid down the foundation stone.

For farmers in Kaimur and Rohtas districts the project is very important, as it would provide irrigation facilities to 3,24,678 hectares of arable land. Once known as the “rice bowl” of Bihar, the area holds the potential to feed the whole of Bihar if proper irrigation facility is available.

Choudhary said: “We are eager to see the reservoir releasing water for the first time. Very soon, you would also become the part of that historic day.”

Asked about the ongoing work at the reservoir, chief engineer (planning and monitoring), water resources, Indu Bhushan Kumar said: “The work of river closures (controlling the river flow according to requirements) up to 144m has been completed and boulder pitching work is under way. We are waiting for sufficient rainfall to accumulate water in the reservoir.”

He added: “The total height of the reservoir is 44m and to become functional, the water level has to be up to 26m. The department is hopeful that we would achieve the target by the first or second week of July.”

Initially only the areas of Kaimur district, including Bhagwanpur, Rampur, Kudra, Adhaura, Mohania and Durgawati blocks, would be benefited by the project. Later, Rohtas would enjoy the reservoir’s facility.

“On trial basis, only the left part of the canal would be opened to benefit the people of Kaimur district. As the reservoir starts releasing water, the department would give its best to open the right canal (towards Rohtas) on priority basis,” said Indu.

Commissioning of the project was not allowed as it was completed in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Once the matter was taken to the Supreme Court, it issued certain directives in the light of which the Centre laid down conditions to make the project operational.

The government spent Rs 427 crore to fulfil the terms and condition. The water resources department also met the demand of transferring the fund to the state Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority, which put it in a fixed deposit. The interest generated from the investment was used to develop forest and wildlife.