July 4, 2016 01:10 AM NPT
By: Arjun Oli
BANKE, July 4:Locals of Mahadevpuri-5 in Banke district say they have been spending sleepless nights in fear of potential flooding since the main canal under the Sikta Irrigation Project crumbled last Tuesday.
The canal developed large holes and cracks at several places as soon as water was allowed to flow through the canal during its trial.
“I don't remember having a good sleep in the last few days. When it rains, we stay outside our homes the whole night fearing floods,” said Bal Krishna Khadka, a local. “Heavy rainfall increases the risk of canal collapse. If that happens, several villages will be washed away," he added.
Locals obstructed the project when the contractor, Kalika CTCE JB Company, started building the canal without conducting soil tests. After the obstruction, the contractor promised to strengthen the walls by covering it with nets and planting sufficient grasses around the canal. But the promise was never fulfilled.
“We asked the contractor not to continue the project without testing soil. They didn't listen to us at first. Only after a section of the canal collapsed did they performed the test,” said Shreedhar Upadhyay, a local. “The wall of the canal has cracks and holes at several places. How can we sleep peacefully in such a situation?”
Locals are unhappy with the stopgap steps taken by the contractor in the name of solving the problem. “Covering the holes is not a lasting solution. The government should at least ensure that the condition here is safe enough to live,” said Dashrath Oli, another local.
Meanwhile, the project's director, Saroj Pandit, admitted that they had used inferior quality mud to build the canal because of budget constraints.
But Sikta, one of the national pride projects, has been receiving massive amount of budget.
It is estimated that the project would cost Rs 25 billion to complete. A total of Rs 12 billion has already been spent so far since the project commenced about 10 years ago. The government has decided to allocate additional Rs 1.26 billion to the project in the next fiscal year.
Photo caption: Authorities performing inspection of the main canal of Sikta Irrigation Project in Dhakari, Mahadevpuri of Banke district in this recent photo. Arjun Oli/Republica.