The ambitious irrigation budget of FY2021/22

The budget speech for Fiscal Year 2021/22 made ambitious pledges to progress and complete the grand irrigation projects that are mostly featured in the list of national pride projects of Nepal. The irrigation projects are planned to irrigate approximately two hundred and seventy-seven thousand hectares of irrigable land across the terai strip of Nepal.

Finance Minister Bishnu Pd. Paudel during his budget speech pledged to complete the Sikta Irrigation Project intaking water from the Rapti River in order to irrigate 42,000 hectares of lands in Banke district within 2 years. NRs 1.56 billion was apportioned for the project. Likewise, the finance minister pledged to finish the entire aspect of the Rani-Jamariya-Kuleria Irrigation Project planned to irrigate 20,300 hectares of land in Kailali district within the 3 years period. As such, the speech allocated NRs 2.35 billion for the project for the coming fiscal year 2021/22. Similarly, the budget pledged to complete the headworks of Bheri-Babai multipurpose diversion project aspired to irrigate 51,000 hectares of irrigable lands in Banke and Bardiya districts within the coming year. Tunnel Boring Machine were used for the first time in Nepal in order to drill 12 Kilometers long tunnel of the project. The project that also features inter-basin water transfer mechanism transferring water from Bheri river to irrigate Babai river basin is apportioned with NRs 3.07 billion for the coming fiscal year. Likewise, Babai Irrigation project planned to irrigate 36,000 hectares of irrigable land in Babai basin is apportioned with NRs 1.44 billion to complete the last remaining 8 kilometers canal infrastructure on the western front. Finally, Sunkoshi Marine Diversion Project, although not enlisted in the pride projects list, is apportioned with NRs 2.46 billion for the coming year. The project that also features inter-basin river transfer between Sunkoshi River, Bagamati river basin, and Kamala River basin attempts to irrigate 122,000 hectares of land in the terai region of Province 2. As such, the project appears to be the largest irrigation project in Nepal pledged to be completed in 4 years.

In a nutshell, the recent budget speech pledged to complete the largest irrigation projects of the country roughly within the remaining five years’ timeframe. Meanwhile, the projects, in aggregate, have been apportioned with approximately NRs 10.88 billion. Similar amount of fund for the very projects were also apportioned by the budget speech of earlier fiscal years. Apart from the flagship irrigation projects jointly planned to leap agricultural production in Nepal, the current budget also pledged to apportion funds to other various irrigation projects being Namure Multipurpose River Diversion Project, Tamor Chisyang Irrigation Project, Kaligandaki-Tanahu Irrigation Project, Madi-Dang Irrigation Project, and Mahakali Irrigation Project mostly for conducting feasibility studies or preparing Detailed Project Report.  Apart from that, NRs 2.34 billion has been apportioned to construct 5000 shallow tube wells and 200 deep tube wells in 20,000 hectares of land across the twenty-five districts in the terai belt of the country as part of the Prosperous Terai-Madhesh Irrigation Special Program.

Likewise, in concern to drinking water projects, Melamchi Drinking Water Project yet takes the central stage by being apportioned with whooping NRs 8.3 billion to complete the second-phase of the subproject-1 (transmission aspect) and improve the Distribution Network Systems as part of the subproject-2 (distribution aspect).

It can be fairly perceived that the current budget attempts to make a serious progress in the agricultural front of the country. However, sky-high expectations and promises are only one aspect of the story. The ability of the federal government to absorb capital expenditure is yet seen poorly, while deadlines have also been extended for multiple irrigation project discussed. However, the ability of the government to lag behind in completion of multiple projects recently can also be attributed to harsh exogenous shocks occurring in the country that have heavily affected the procurement capacity of the government. Hopefully, realities meet expectations in the coming fiscal year.

Prience Shrestha

Prience works in the research department at Samriddhi Foundation. And, he attempts to specialize in the field of Development Economics

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