Repair of the Indira Gandhi canal carried out in record time
It would bring an additional water supply downstream and would save considerable infiltration losses.
In a feat of engineering, the repair and reline of the Indira Gandhi Canal, the country’s longest canal that ends with irrigation facilities in the Thar Desert, was accomplished in a record 60 days in the middle of the second wave of the pandemic, restoring 70 km from both the main channel and the spillways. Work has been resumed mainly in Rajasthan and partly in neighboring Punjab.
The project was a race against time, as repairs required shutting down the canal system, which had a direct impact on the water and irrigation needs of 1.75 crore people as well as numerous cattle, the cantonment of the army along the international border and industrial use in border districts. Thousands of workers and officials worked around the clock with strict COVID protocols to reach the target on time.
After the surfacing of the 23 km stretch was undertaken in the Punjab on March 30 this year for completion in 60 days, it was a Herculean task for Rajasthan, which being downstream only had 30 days to repair a 47 km section. The state government has drawn up a two-month water emergency plan for the affected areas and has set a strict deadline for the supply channel and the main channel.
The safe load capacities of the Indira Gandhi feeder had increased from 18,500 cusecs to about 12,000 cusecs over a period of time, while over 1,000 cusecs were lost through infiltration. An initiative by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for the rehabilitation of the system received support from his counterpart in Punjab, as the lining of the canals had been severely damaged due to the continuous flow of water.
Farmers’ dependence on the Canal is minimal during the post-rabi harvest season and before the start of the Kharif season, when maintenance work is usually undertaken. “However, never before has work been carried out on such a scale or for such a long period of time in the canal,” Naveen Mahajan, senior secretary for water resources, told The Hindu on Monday.
Although a tripartite agreement for the project was signed between the Union Ministry of Water Resources and the governments of Rajasthan and Punjab on January 23, 2019 for the rehabilitation of feeders in Rajasthan and Sirhind, the lockdown triggered by the pandemic interrupted the process after the rabi season in 2020.
When work was finally resumed during the modified lockdown, as the second wave of the pandemic swept across the country, officials were better prepared for the situation. Mr Mahajan said relining of a 47 km long stretch in the state was successfully completed at a cost of 238 crore during the 30-day shutdown period between April 29 and May 28. .
“After counting the dewatering and sand removal, only 22 to 25 days were actually available for the works,” said Mahajan. Almost 13,650 cubic meters of concrete were laid each day, as the feed channel has a bed width of 40 meters and a side slope height of 11.5 meters. A three-shift, 24-hour work plan was carried out for the first time in the canal.
Mr. Mahajan said that effective management helped the project prevent the onset of viral infection and achieved the goal on time. This would bring an additional water supply for the downstream population and save considerable seepage losses, he said.