US$145mn from World Bank to reduce flooding in Bengal

The Government of India, the Government of West Bengal, and the World Bank have signed a US$145 million loan deal to support a project that seeks to improve irrigation services and flood management in the Damodar Valley Command Area (DVCA) in West Bengal

May 20, 2020

The West Bengal Major Irrigation and Flood Management Project will benefit 2.7 million farmers from five districts across a 393,964 ha area with better irrigation and flood protection

The total value of the project is US$413.8 million, co-financed between IBRD (US$145 million), the AIIB (US$145 million), and the Government of West Bengal (US$123.8 million)

The project will support the state’s efforts in creating modern and resilient irrigation infrastructure so that more farmers can diversify and shift to higher-value crops

The project will drive modern Management Information System, promotion of conjunctive use of surface and groundwater, the introduction of rational asset management, etc

The Government of India, the Government of West Bengal, and the World Bank have signed a US$145 million loan deal to support a project that seeks to improve irrigation services and flood management in the Damodar Valley Command Area (DVCA) in West Bengal. The West Bengal Major Irrigation and Flood Management Project will benefit about 2.7 million farmers from five districts of the eastern state across a 393,964 ha area with better irrigation and flood protection services and infrastructure to mitigate the impact of climate change.

The deal comes as India is adopting a strategic growth path that uses and manages water resources more efficiently. This project will assist in improving irrigation and agriculture in the DVCA, by optimizing the use of surface and groundwater and strengthening flood management, which will boost agricultural productivity and increase incomes in rural areas. Key challenges in the DVCA include the degradation of infrastructure, inadequate irrigation management, and the failure to serve the middle and tail parts of the canal network with surface water. 

Due to poor infrastructure, the tail end farmers in the area are compelled to extract groundwater, which raises the costs of cultivation and undermines the sustainability of the scheme. Between 2005 and 2017, the number of semi-critical blocks increased from five to 19 (out of 41 blocks). Meanwhile, the Lower Damodar basin area is historically flood-prone. On average, 33,500 hectares of the cropped area and 461,000 people have been affected annually. This downstream part of the project area lacks the infrastructure to protect against recurrent flooding. 

IJsbrand H. de Jong, Lead Water Resource Management Specialist, and World Bank’s Task Team Leader for the project said that surface water in DVCA is progressively being confined to the top end of the system while groundwater use in the tail end continues to increase, groundwater levels continue to decline, and the sustainability of the scheme continues to erode, undermining the farmers’ capacity to adapt to climate change. The project will improve the use of surface water and enhance the long-term sustainability of groundwater use.

This will make agriculture more productive and climate-resilient for farmers. The project will invest in measures to reduce flooding, including strengthening of embankments and desilting. West Bengal has invested significant resources in developing its irrigation infrastructure. However, many of these assets perform below potential. The project will support the state’s efforts in creating modern and resilient irrigation infrastructure so that more farmers can diversify and shift to higher-value crops in the coming years, World Bank said. 

To deal with these challenges, several institutional reforms are planned under the project. These include the introduction of a modern Management Information System, benchmarking and evidence-based decision making, promotion of conjunctive use of surface and groundwater, the introduction of rational asset management, and improving transparency through citizen engagement. Irrigation Service Providers will be recruited on a performance basis to improve the quality of irrigation services.

The total value of the project is US$413.8 million, co-financed between IBRD (US$145 million), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (US$145 million), and the Government of West Bengal (US$123.8 million).