Irrigation channel unused amidst drought

Update: September, 07/2017 – 09:00

Parts of the irrigation channel are covered with grass from years of non-use, rendering it unusable. — Photo nhandan.com.vn

ĐẮK LẮK — An expensive irrigation system in Ea Súp District of the Central Highlands province of Đắk Lắk has been lying idle, while local crops are parched.Total investment for the project behind Ea Súp Lake in the Ea Súp District hit VNĐ 25.3 billion ($1.1 million), with the construction handled by the state-owned Irrigation Construction and Management Board No.8 (under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development).

According to the original design, the-5km concrete construction would transport water from the Upper Ea Súp Lake – the largest artificial fresh water lake in the province, and second largest in the Central Highlands – to 200ha of crops in the Ea Súp town and Cư M’lan of Ea Súp District.

In 2012, the work was completed, and the irrigation board handed it over to the Đắk Lắk Irrigation Management JSC to manage, however, the irrigation system has not yet been used, the Nhân Dân (People) newspaper reported.

The million-dollar work is in a derelict state – the irrigation channel doesn’t hold any water but is covered in grass, while due to years of negligence, erosion from rainwater has caused some parts of the channel to collapse, rendering it unusable.

Mai Quốc Vượng, Director of the Irrigation Construction and Management Board No.8m also disclosed that one of the reasons the channel is unused is that it actually is a main channel of a system comprising another 10 smaller irrigation channels that will continue to transport water to faraway fields. The government has tasked Đắk Lắk People’s Committee with constructing these channels, however, due to budget constraints, the construction has not started, delaying the use of the main channel.

Director of the channel’s current managing company, Trần Thế Hoan, also attributed the non-operation of the channel to this, reiterating the need for ‘synchronous’ investment to make all the components work effectively.

It’s a great waste, especially considering Ea Súp District is among the localities hit hardest by drought and one of the poorest districts in the province. In the dry season, locals have to be mindful of all they water use for farming and themselves, yet right beside them there is a huge but unusable irrigation channel.

In recent years, local farming has suffered greatly from severe drought, with total losses in some orchards.

Thái Văn Châu, a farmer in Village 5 of Ea Súp town, said his family is tending some 6ha of pepper and fruit trees.

Drought is so severe every dry season that people here were elated to see an irrigation channel being built.

“Other households in the area, like me, have worked on our little plantations for decades, but depended entirely on natural rainfall,” Châu said, adding that ensuring water for orchards in the dry season would help to earn more income, greatly alleviating poverty.

“We implore authorities to investigate whatever problems keep the irrigation construction from operating and fix them soon, avoiding this unfortunate waste of state funds,” he said. Many people located in areas where the channel courses through echoed Châu’s comments.

Đoàn Văn Vinh, a resident of Village 7, Cư M’lan Commune, said that some locals have even filled some parts of the channel to make ‘roads’ into their orchards.

Vượng said the board completed quality assessment of the work before handing it over. “The board has ensured the construction follows the original design approved by the authorities.”

“Whether the channel can be used efficiently is entirely up to local authorities and the managing company. The managing company has the responsibility to conduct frequent maintenance,” he said.  — VNS

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