Introduction

General

The Ministry of Irrigation (MoI) has four organizations namely Department of Irrigation (DoI), Department of Water Induced Disaster Management (DWIDM), Ground Water Resources Development Committee (GWRDC) and Water Resource Research and Development Centre (WRRDC). Government employees under the ministry and offices under it including employees who have direct link with water resources development and management requires short term and medium term training related to their job for their efficient performance and development of professionalism. Currently, MoI does not have such training institute. In the view of importance of such institute and for the research and development works in Water Resource Sector, "Water Resource Research and Development Centre" (WRRDC) with training, laboratory and research facilities under direct supervision of irrigation secretary was established.

 

Background

Agriculture in Nepal has long been based on subsistence farming, particularly in the hilly regions where peasants derive their living from fragmented plots of land cultivated in difficult conditions. Government programs to introduce irrigation facilities and fertilizers have proved inadequate, their delivery hampered by the mountainous terrain. Population increase and environmental degradation have ensured that the minimal gains in agricultural production, owing more to the extension of arable land than to improvements in farming practices, have been cancelled out. Once an exporter of rice, Nepal now has a food deficit.

Approximately two third of the population is involved in agriculture, which constitutes 34 percent of GDP. The seasonal nature of farming leads to widespread underemployment, but programs to grow cash crops and encourage cottage industries have had some success over the years. Two-ninths of the total land is cultivated, of which 1.4 million hectares produced 4.5 million metric tons of the staple crop of rice in 2013. Wheat and maize together take up a similar portion of the available land, with harvests of 2 million metric tons and 1.7 million metric tons, respectively, in 2013. Production of cash crops increased substantially till 2013, and sugarcane, oilseed, tobacco, and potatoes (a staple food in some areas) were the major crops. Agricultural production accounted for about three-fourths of total exports in the late 2010s. Most exports consist of primary agricultural produce which goes to India. In general the majority of Nepalese farmers are subsistence farmers and do not export surplus; this does not prevent a minority in the fertile southern Terai region from being able to do so. Most of the country is mountainous, and there are pockets of food-deficit areas. The difficulties of transportation make it far easier to export across the border to India than to transport surplus to remote mountain regions within Nepal.

Government efforts to boost the agricultural economy have focused on easing dependence on weather conditions, increasing productivity, and diversifying the range of crops for local consumption, export, and industrial inputs. Solutions have included the deployment of irrigation, chemical fertilizers, and improved seed varieties, together with credit provision, technical advice, and limited mechanization. This has had some effect. Land under irrigation increased from 6,200 hectares in 1956 to 1,331,521 hectares in 2013. The use of chemical fertilizers, introduced in the 1950s, climbed to about 177,000 metric tons by 2013. Still, the weather continues to determine good and bad years for the average farmer.

In particular, the government have heavily invested in expanding irrigation area by developing sources for farming water such as weir/barrages or pumping stations. Many large/medium/small irrigation schemes including inter-basin water transfer projects are being built and many more are on their way. Moreover, the department of irrigation is keeping hands in dam projects such as Bagmati River Basin Improvement Project where two dams (one 24m high and one 90m high) are proposed. In coming years, it is essential to build various irrigation facilities such as dam or a reservoir to harness water resources of the country and to increase supply of irrigation water. For the construction of theses irrigation facilities, it is necessary to test and analyze a variety of soil and materials, and the results are important to manage the quality of each stage in the process of design and construction.

For material testing services, DoI has established one laboratory in each of the five regional irrigation offices. DWIDP has got a hydraulic laboratory at Godawari, Lalitpur with River simulation model facility, Debris flow simulation model facility, Landslide simulation model facility, Soil testing facility and Concrete testing facility.

Apart from laboratory facilities, another missing aspect in MoI and its affiliated organizations is training to its employees. The department of irrigation (DoI) and the department of water induced disaster Management (DWIDM) have training center for their staffs but the centers are not performing efficiently and are unable to organize sufficient trainings. In this regard, it is of utmost importance that MoI, with mandate to develop irrigation facilities in the country and to control water induced disaster, shall organize trainings on the requirement basis to its affiliated technical staffs. In addition to that, its new employees shall be given service entry introductory training as soon as they are appointed. Furthermore, MoI and its affiliated staffs shall be given subjective training in every disciplines which may be of long term, medium term or short term.

Now a days, climate change and its impact on water resources is coming into picture most of the times. Climate change may result in heavy rainfall resulting in flooding which can damage irrigation and river control structures, and increase soil erosion. Additionally, areas that experience more frequent droughts will have less water available for crops. Many workshops, seminars and trainings in relation to climate change are being organized in the country. Considering the above, WRRDC, a separate unit is established under MoI to take care of the issue and to make study and research related to climate change and to share its outcome to DoI, DWIDM and GWRDC which will assist in designing projects.

 

Statement of Needs

Government has given top priority to the expansion of irrigated area to improve agricultural economy, increase food sufficiency and to improve livelihood of local farmers. For the expansion of irrigated area, DoI has to design and implement new projects which involves construction of barrage, dam or a reservoir. Every stage of design and implementation of such irrigation facilities requires testing and analysis of soil and material. In addition to that, large multipurpose schemes require physical modeling before constructing the structure in site, which tends to improvise the final design.

In areas where ground water potential is high, the resource is also being harnessed through shallow and deep tubewells. Quality of ground water has great impact on its use for irrigation. Thus, the use of groundwater calls for water quality testing.

Present material testing laboratories in five regional offices have got few basic equipment. Many of the equipment have completed their useful life and have been scrapped or in the process of being scrapped. Many others are outdated and cannot provide accuracy and precision needed to do test and research and are affecting the quality of laboratory testing. Additionally, there is no soil test facility in the laboratories. The hydraulic laboratory at Godawari lacks sufficient space to carry out physical modeling.

As mentioned above, DoI and DWIDM have training center but the centers are not able to organize sufficient trainings. In addition to that, MoI does not have such center as other ministries do have for e.g. ministry of forest and soil conservation, postal service department etc. In this regard, it is of utmost importance that MoI, with mandate to develop irrigation facilities in the country and to control water induced disaster, shall organize trainings on the requirement basis to its affiliated technical staffs.

Climate change is a burning issue at present and it certainly has some impacts on water resources. Having climate change and research unit in WRDC will definitely assist in project design.

In the view of above discussion, WRRDC is established with training, laboratory and climate change study facilities.