Mission Kakatiya, to revamp the chain of thousands of historic tanks in Telangana is a very laudable Project. But, it needs to be implemented with a caution and a systematic approach. It is a very cost intensive scheme. It is estimated that there are 46000 tanks and it needs Rs.22000 crore financial outlay to repair them. It works out to on an average Rs.48 lakhs per tank. Even smaller tanks than the average also may not cost less than Rs.20 lakhs.
In addition, there are several problems associated with these tanks neglected over a period of 60 years. Some of the ‘shikam’ lands are tress passed; in most cases the flood flow canals have become defunct; in some of them the silt could be saline and is not useful for applying to fields; most of them are not getting enough water to get filled in a rainy season, so on so forth. There is need to consider these problems in the implementation of the Project. In view of the heavy cost, it also needs to work out the feasibility of individual tanks and overall Cost-Benefit analysis of the project.
Unlike a new irrigation Project, this is an effort to restore the old command area under thousands of tanks existing from a distant past. The objective is to regain the strength and usefulness of the tanks before 1956.It will enrich the village environs with higher availability of water, improving the surface and ground water resources. It can substantially increase the total ayacut and stabilize it under the tanks and improve the underground water table. Thus preventing the present large scale failure of bore wells and open wells. It will also increase agriculture production, availability of drinking water and rural economic and environmental development. These are the specific goals of the general objective envisaged under the mission.
But, realizing the objective of the mission is incumbent on the expected water inflows in to the repaired tanks. As things stand today, most of the tanks are not receiving enough rain water to fill them, even during a normal rainfall year. The reduced capacity of these tanks is not because of siltation and poor maintenance alone. It is also because of the reduction in the surface water flow from the streams and rivulets that serve these tanks. It is also due to recurring changes in rainfall pattern and the drastic lowering down of water table with heavy over draft of ground water by drilling of numerous bore wells for irrigation. Thus the historical tanks have become a poor shadow of their formerselves.To regain their old glory, it is not enough just to desilt and repair the tanks. There is a need to supplement the rain water inflows from Irrigation Projects by feeder canals. It may also not possible to ensure every tank to have this feeder facility.
Therefore, it is not advisable to undertake a blanket repair of all tanks in the project. It needs to examine the possibility of each tank getting sufficient inflows either by rain water or by supplemental feeding from Irrigation projects — either existing or the projects in the pipeline.
- That way there could be a few different categories of tanks:
- Tanks having feeder feasibility to the existing projects
- Tanks that can have feeder facility from the proposed irrigation projects
- Tanks which have adequate inflow sources on their own
- Tanks which do not have either facility.
If these details are known, it will facilitate to prioritize the work to be undertaken in a phased manner using the available resources judiciously and pragmatically.
Therefore it is prudent to undertake ‘Mission Kakatiya’ with a project approach rather than an evocative revival of past legacy. The project over all should be able to generate adequate incremental benefits via-vis its huge cost, with necessary technical feasibility and economic viability. It needs to evaluate each tank for the feasibility of receiving sufficient inflows of water to bring the additional ayacut under irrigation, and the incremental economic and social benefits thereof.
Usually government projects will have very extravagant projections in the beginning. More often than not they will go hay wire in the middle. There will be no worthwhile monitoring and evaluation during and after implementation. At least in this kind of schemes with well-defined and measurable objectives, there should be an appraisal system in place to monitor its correct progress and to conduct a concurrent and ex-post evaluation.
If TS government as it claims is different from others, it should implement this Project with a systematic project approach to reap the grand benefits envisaged in the mission. Otherwise it may peter out in to a nonperforming government project like the earlier percolation tanks and watershed programs, or, like Devadula and Pranahita projects in that infamous Jalayagnam.