'Faulty design' behind recurring Sikta canal collapse

Published On: September 5, 2017 04:00 AM NPT By: Arjun Oli

NEPALGUNJ, September 5: Sikta Irrigation Project is yet to complete. But the government is spending huge resources every year for maintenance and reconstruction work of the mega irrigation project.

The government allocates huge budget every year to build the national pride project which is moving at a snail's pace. It has also been shouldering a huge financial burden, which runs into millions of rupees, to reconstruct the main canal when it gets damaged by floods almost every year. 

Technicians say the main canal gets damaged easily by the floods because of its 'faulty design'. 

Project officials say that around 10 percent of the budget allocated for construction of the project goes for reconstruction and maintenance every year.

“Since the main canal spreads from east to west, it cannot withstand pressure of water flowing from north to south. It causes collapse of the canal wall,” an engineer told Republica. “Siphons used below or above the canal are narrow and very weak. We are seeing the result now.”

Flood triggered by incessant rain last month caused damages in nearly a dozen places in the main canal. The water flowing from north to south cannot flow easily from the canal, causing damages in the structure, say engineers. 

The project office estimates that the flood caused damages worth nearly Rs 70 million this year alone. Prakash Bahadur Karki, a senior divisional engineer, said that the estimated damage could be between Rs 50 million to Rs 70 million. “We, however, are yet to calculate the exact figure. There was a sudden outburst of water from north to south. As the siphons failed to divert the water, it caused damage to the structure,” Karki, who is also the information officer of the project, said. He further added that the damaged structure will be repaired once estimated figure of the loss is calculated.

The flood had caused damage to the main canal in 2015 also. According to Karki, the 2015 floods had inflicted damage worth around Rs 80 million in the canal. 

“It has become a ritual for the Department of Irrigation (DoI) to send a team for inspection of the damage. However, such teams do not highlight faults because of fear that they themselves would come under scrutiny,” a staff of the project told Republica, requesting anonymity.

Outraged by the loss due the faulty designs, locals of Banke have demanded strong action against those involved in project designing work. 

“The government should form a high-level team to study the issue. Otherwise, the project would be a mere pipedream for the people of Banke,” Tapta Paudel, Banke district secretary of Nepali Congress (NC) told Republica. He also said that the recurring problem of the canal sustaining damage is due to flawed design and irregularities in the national pride project. 

The contractor has handed over only 17.7 kilometer stretch of the 45-kilometer main canal to the project office. The biggest damage has been seen on the stretch which has already been handed over to the project office. The stretch was built by CTC Kalika Joint Venture Pvt Ltd. 

There is a human settlement in the southern side of the Sikta Irrigation Project. While the collapse of the main canal is causing huge financial loss to the government, it is also inundating the human settlement almost every year. 

“We had told the officials concerned that the weak siphon could cause damage in the human settlement. But our statement was not taken seriously,” added Bhandari.

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