Nepali Engineers Explore New Irrigation Systems


With the changing climate and their own rapidly changing socio-economic conditions, farmers in Nepal are demanding newer, better ways of irrigating their farms. The Department of Irrigation (DOI) is the nodal agency for irrigation in Nepal and their engineers are committed to providing the best service possible to Nepali farmers. Given the need for better irrigation technologies and services, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and Jain Irrigation Systems Limited (JISL), India jointly organized and facilitated a training for young engineers from DOI.

Thirty irrigation engineers—10 of them women—from DOI participated in the training. Titled Energy Efficient Irrigation Systems using Solar Pumps, the training took place from 17 to 23 July 2017 in Maharashtra, India. ICIMOD organized the training under its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)-funded Energy Initiative at the request of DOI. The first part of the training took place at the JISL campus in Jalgaon, Maharastra and was followed by a field trip to Sundernagar in Himachal Pradesh, India. 

With the objective of introducing participants to appropriate irrigation technologies for hilly and mountain regions, the training acquainted participants to topics such as planning and designing pipe distribution networks with micro-irrigation, functioning of lift irrigation schemes, managing irrigation using drip and sprinkler irrigation, and designing irrigation schemes using different pump configurations. Special emphasis was put on using solar pumps for designing irrigation schemes considering that grid electricity is not accessible in rural areas of Nepal and diesel energy is both dirty and expensive. 

Participants at the Product Demo Plot in Parishram

The training began with an introduction to JISL facilities, followed by an exhibition of different irrigation solutions set up in a product demonstration plot in JISL. This was followed by classroom sessions combined with field visits to Neri and Erandol where JISL has helped farmers install automated drip irrigation systems. Responding to the participants’ request for learning about aspects of designing irrigation schemes, JISL recommended that participants take a month-long training that is specially designed for training irrigation engineers on the aspects of planning, designing, and implementing irrigation projects from scratch.

After spending four days on the JISL campus, the team proceeded to Sundernagar in Himachal Pradesh where JISL planned and implemented the Balh Valley Medium Irrigation Project for the Irrigation and Public Health Department of Himachal Pradesh, India. The project was installed in Mandi district in Himachal Pradesh in 2009 and irrigates 2,355 hectares of land across 24 Panchayats, directly benefiting over 7,500 farmers. Gravitational force is used to divert water from the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) canal to a desilting unit. The desilted water is then lifted to the main conveyance system and redistributed to delivery chambers in 23 sub-command areas using either pumps (13 projects) or the force of gravity (10 projects). Each delivery channel is located at the most elevated point of its command area and uses gravity to distribute water to the fields. The fully automated scheme ensures that water is equitably shared among the sub-command areas and has a provision for the installation of sprinkler irrigation systems through gravity. 

Participants also interacted with beneficiary communities and learnt about how the communities manage available water. Each community appointed a volunteer to determine the water demand of individual farmers and allocated water within the command area.  

Desiltation plant of the Balh Valley Medium Irrigation Project in Sundernagar

JISL’s philosophy of achieving ‘more crop per drop’ is evident in its work. The training helped participants learn about how to achieve this through their own projects in Nepal. Manoj Pantha, an irrigation engineer at the Ministry of Irrigation, Nepal said, “This training has increased the confidence of district engineers to initiate the design of energy efficient modern irrigation technologies. Although the schedule was tight and many topics were covered only superficially, the training was very useful. We are interested in a more focused training that will delve deeper into the aspects of design.” All the participants agreed that the field visits provided them much needed exposure. They also expressed the need for a month-long training on designing irrigation schemes that can enhance Nepal’s national capacity to improve water security and lead to national food security.

C Muralidhar, from JISL Export Marketing said that hosting the training for DOI participants from Nepal in India was a wonderful experience. Speaking of the participants, he said, “They combined youthful zest and vigour, showing a lot of interest in visiting our project sites, especially our lift irrigation project in Balh Valley, Sundarnagar, Himachal Pradesh, where they had a one-on-one session with the engineers who had designed the project regarding the design and logistics involved.” Muralidhar also talked about how the participants, upon meeting the beneficiaries of the scheme, were amazed to find out that the project transformed their lives (the constant availability of water right in their fields) by giving them the liberty to plant crops at their will rather than depend only on rainfall. He also agreed that the duration of such trainings should be at least a month, giving participants ample time and opportunity to get trained in designing, take theory classes, interact with experts, and visit key Jain Irrigation Project sites. “This would give them the necessary exposure to work independently. Perhaps this training should be for a smaller group and only for those who are seriously interested in designing,” he said.

Participants interacting with beneficiary communities of the Balh Valley Medium Irrigation Project in Sundernagar