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Drainage Problems Related to Irrigation in Maharashtra

Most agricultural drainage problems are due to soils with

poor drainage characteristics. When excess water is applied, seepage from

canal takes place and if the drainage is not properly provided with good

maintenance, the consequences seen, are of large scale waterlogging and

salinity in the soil. The process of upgradation has not yet been generally

reversed although the techniques to achieve this are now well known.

Obviously, the main constraint is of the initial investment and high cost of

remedial measures, which, since their effect is slow, do not yield maximum

economic returns for the capital used. The tendency, till the recent past, has

therefore been to find ways and means to create money by rapidly

commissioning of irrigation facilities by providing bare minimum maintenance

needed and by deferring or omitting other aspects like drainage or its

maintenance, hoping that either they will not be required or that they would be

done when necessary funds would be available.

Thus though, virtually all irrigation projects with soundly

engineered drainage networks and other infrastructure need to be provided

along with irrigation facilities, yet money has proved to be the real bottleneck.

The irrigation works today go according to the different priorities, such as

technical, social, economical and political. Amongst the technical priorities,

drainage had the last position. As a result, there has, been continuous rising

trend of throwing vast areas out of cultivation.

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It has been estimated that in India about (7) million

hectares have been affected by soil salinity and alkalinity. Such a vast expanse

of salt affected area, poses a serious problem and calls for immediate attention

for their reclamation.

Background History of drainage in Maharashtra :-

The menace of salinity and waterlogging in the irrigated

tracts of Maharashtra was first noticed under Nira Canals in 1888, i.e. soon

after introduction of irrigation on this canal in 1885.

Before this, there was no record of salt land in the

neighbourhood nor picuously known salt lands barring few here and there like,

Karha river banks (in Nira valley which existed in Punjab Irrigation colonies

before introduction of the canal in 1883. Dr. Leather, Agricultural Chemist to

Government of India , went over to affected areas into the valley, collected

number of samples of the affected soils and published most interesting report in


It was therefore, in June 1916, that a “Special Irrigation

Division” was formed. The then renowned Irrigation Engineer, Mr.C.C.Inglis,

initially as Executive Engineer of this Special Irrigation Division and later, as

Superintending, Engineer, Irrigation Development and Research Circle, Pune,

studied this problem in great depth for several years and published various

technical papers on Irrigation Engineering and Drainage.

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Drainage Problems Related to Irrigation in Maharashtra


Maharashtra State is the third largest State in. India with

geographical area of about (31) million hectare and cultivable area of (21.10)

million hectares.

Irrigation occupies a place of prime importance in the State

of Maharashtra where one third of in area is prone to frequent droughts. In pre-

independence period, irrigation schemes were constructed as, only protective

measures, like Bhandardhara (Pravara Canal Bhatghar (Nira Canals), Khodshi

Weir (Krishna Canal and Nandur Madhmeshwar (Godavari Canals), etc. After

independence, the emphasis has changed an irrigation has now become the

important development activity.

As per the report of State Irrigation Commission appointed

in 1962, the ultimate irrigation potential both from surface, and underground

sources would be about (70.61) lakh hectares comprising about (30%) of

total culturable area of the State. Out of this, 70% would be from surface

sources of irrigation projects and 30% from underground sources.

An irrigation potential of (2.74) lakh hectares was created

in the pre-plan period (1951). The development has-made rapid strides during

subsequent plan periods and the potential created by 1985 is (22.70) lakh


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(a) The State is divided into (9) agro-climatic zones,

with following three broad Divisions :—

(1) Western Coast :- Annual rainfall of 2500 mm having humid climate

and with red and lateritic soils, posing no drainage

problems. However, the coastal soils are saline.

(2) Central Portion :- This forms part of Deccan Plateau having rainfall

of.(300) to (900) mm and is in rain shadow area. The

soils are generally vertisols derived from basalt and

ranging from light to heavy. The climate is semi arid.

(3) Eastern Part :- This lies adjacent to (2) above and has assured rainfall

up to (1250) mm. The soils are generally vertisols

derived from basalt with certain exceptions of light to

medium soils developed from schists and granite.

(b) Topography— Topography of Maharashtra is rolling with steeper slopes in

the upper reaches of catchment and gentle slopes in the vertisol areas varying

from 0-3% . The topography generally provides for good natural surface


(c) River Basins—There are (3) major river basins draining the State, viz.,

(1) Krishna river basin draining about 30% area.

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Drainage Problems Related to Irrigation in Maharashtra

(2) Godavari river basin draining about 30% area.

(3) Tapi river basin draining about 20°/o area, and Mahanadi and Narmada

draining very small area.

# Soil Classification:

The system of classifying the soils developed in point of view of

drainage and being follow Maharashtra for the last several years is as under

(1) Shallow .. Having soil cover up to 40

(2) Medium .. Having soil cover between 250 cms.

(3) Deep .. Having soil cover more 250 cms.

The classification has a distinct advantage of being simple for use. It can be

easily understood and use moderately qualified men who are working in field.

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# Seepage losses from the conveyance and distribution system:

The seepage losses occur through pervious strata through

which canal passes cutting such as disintegrated rock, jointed rock, hard murum

uncompacted banks etc. There are many such reaches through which, canal

passes which need some treatment. Many banks are constructed by just dumping

lumps or clods of soil, with little or no watering and compaction whenever

canals are in cutting across a steep ground slope, we see heavy seepage losses,

along the slope at lower lands.

# Leakages through canal structures

Usually this leakage is considered as part of seepage

through canals. But this has to separately considered. This occurs both due to

bad design as well as bad construction.

a) Improper layout at junction of heavy banks with canal structure at both ends

of the structure i. e. at entry and exit of canal water. The structures are designed

with more attention of structural strength but less attention to water movement

through soil banks and junctions.

One can see a number of structures with hardly any

consideration of seepage path hydraulic gradient. The end walls or the side

walls are not properly keyed into the soil bank or soils in cutting. This problem

is not only in banks portion but in cutting also.

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Drainage Problems Related to Irrigation in Maharashtra

b) Here again the banks at approaches of structure are not compacted. Quality

of construction is poor resulting in heavy leakages at junctions and at

construction joints.

# Borrow pits and Nala Diversions :

a) Very often the borrow pits are taken just at the toe of banks thus opening the

pervious strata without any cover to the hydraulic gradient.

b) The borrow pits are taken very irregularly. Many agricultural lands near

such pits are damaged. No attempt is made to connect the borrow pits to

natural drains. Some cost of drainage will be saved simply by connecting

these borrow pits to the nearest natural nalas.

c) It is not only borrow pits but the diversion channels of nalas propose

to be diverted to nearest nalas get choked or the work is left incomplete and

rain water collects and remains stagnant with a result that this also adds to

the excess be disposed.

d) In case of contour canals catch water drains is not provided on the upper

side (u/s of ground slope) resulting in pools of rain water which remain

undrained and adds to the excess water. This case does not arise in case of

ridge canals.

Operation losses:

Lot of wastage of water occurs which again goes unnoticed, some of the causes

are mentioned below :-

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a) Gates of regulators and outlets as well as escapes leak heavily because they

can not be closed fully. Many times gates are left open. Many times there

are no gates at all. All the water is just wasted through escapes etc. and just

adds to the ground water table by percolation.

b) Same thing happens at night when no night irrigation is practised and the

irrigation channels are flowing. This water adds to the excess considerably.

c) Discharge let out through channels more than the requirement is again

wasted and through escapes adding to the excess.

# Over Irrigation:

a) Application of irrigation water much more than needed by crops is practised

in most of the projects. A farmer still thinks that with more water he will get

more yield. This is a misunderstanding. It is worthwhile computing AI/DC at

outled heads of various projects, to make a generalization. But, today hardly

there is any control on depth of water to be applied. No where Rotational

Water supply is practised on a sizeable scale (as is evident from the fact that

not every where night irrigation is practised).

b) Apart from whatever is considered as crop water requirement, even on AI /

DC basis soil parameter is never considered since with shallow soils

percolation is heavy adding to excess to be drained out.

c) It is usually experienced that concentration of perennials is often the cause

of water-logging. This is half truth, it is not the presence of perennials but

the excess water that is applied which causes water logging. For example

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Drainage Problems Related to Irrigation in Maharashtra

there are large areas in Jalgaon District where concentration of perennials is

as mucn as 40% to 60% But there is no water logging. The irrigation is on

wells. So when the percentage of perennials is high, and if the soils are not

draining and the water application is excessive water logging occurs.

# Blocking of natural Drains

In areas where the rainfall is less the farmers block the

nalas. This practice is one of the best ways for water and land management so

as to conserve both soil and water in rainfed agriculture. Farmers cannot be

blamed for it. However, when canal water is made available for irrigation, the

necessity of clearing the drains arises. This needs convincing to the farmer of

the necessity of removing blockes.

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Salinity and waterlogging hazards are controlled by

continuous monitoring of the command areas and identifying the damaged areas

every year and preparing necessary schemes to reclaim them. For this wells in

the command areas are monitored twice a year i.e. premansoon and

postmansoon. In addition to this, Auger pits are taken at the rule of one pit for

every (4) hectares and the soil samples and water samples are collected and

tested for EC and pH. Soil samples are tested every year. based on this, and

other field data, identification of damaged areas is done as under.

1) Slightly waterlogged area :- Ground water level between 0 to 1.20m

2) Fully waterlogged area :- water seen on the surface

3) Slightly salt affected area :- EC between 1 to 3 mmhos/cm

4) Fully salt affected area :- EC >3

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Drainage Problems Related to Irrigation in Maharashtra

The damage criteria being followed in the state is as under:

( 1:2 Soil water suspansion )

Class EC mmhos/cm.

1) Non saline ..... .... 0-1

2) Slightly saline .... .... 1-3

3) Highly saline .... .... More than 3

‘X’ Limit : An Effective Way to Control the Damage

Medium soils if damaged, can be reclaimed by providing

drains because of drainable sub-stratum, but the deep soils having low

permeabilities pose real problem. Therefore, irrigation in such lands is required

to be done very cautiously.

One study conducted in the past (1931-34) reveals that, by

allowing indiscriminate plantation of cane in a factory area, there was

considerable rise in the ground water table ( See Fig. ) below.

In Maharashtra therefore, the perennial areas are controlled

by deciding the upper limit of, the allowable percentage of perennials which is

called ' X ' Limit. This mainly depends on the soil type and its draining

characteristics. In deep BC soil areas, it is not to exceed more than (7 to

10 per cent). This has helped to put initial check on land damage.

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The pattern of layout of drain is usually of the random

style. The main drain is located in the centre of the damaged area. To cover the

isolated damaged branch drains are provided. These are connected to main

drain by a carrier drain. Where the damage ends the main drain itself acts as a

carrier drain up outfall.

The main and carrier drains are generally laid along the

natural nala. If the natural nala is tortuous, with weeds and with insufficient

gradient, it is straightened with suitable grade.

All the drains are usully open drains with 2.5 depth so as to

intercept the previous sub-stratum grade provided varies from 1:400 to l:1000.

The drain section for different grades and discharge are designed from safe

velocity consideration.

# Discharge Coefficient

Discharge coefficient of one cusec (30 litres per sec.) per

100 ha. is adopted which is based on actual experiments conducted in the past,

in 1:3 cane block. In concentrated cane area, it comes to 1.5 cusecs per100 ha.

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Drainage Problems Related to Irrigation in Maharashtra

(a) Open Drains :

The conventional method of sub-surface drainage of

command area is to dig open trenches going down upto 2.5m so that pervious

strata should be cut. Construction of drains in costly lands of deep B.C. Soil

areas becomes not only difficult but rather impossible because the farmers are

not ready to part away with their lands. Land required for the open drain is

quite substancial. Therefore, construction becomes difficult. Similarly,

maintenance of open drains in B.C. Soil also poses great problem and has been

a matter of severe concern. B.C. Soil when wet cannot retain its slope and

section. The process of sliding of slopes and silting of bed is so rapid that, if

there is no timely maintenance, the drain gets silted up within a very short

time. Construction and maintenance is also very costly because it has to

be done in slushy and wet condition. Maintenance has also to be frequent

and continuous. The quality of drain water is

(b) Closed Drains :

1) Buried Rubble drain:- It is laid at a depth of 2m. below ground. The drain

is of rubble of 60cm x 60cm. surrounded by graded inverted filter of 15 cm

of metal and 15cm of sand. The trench is then backfilled upto ground level.

The inverted filter around the rubble prevent the drain from choking .

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2) Buried pipe drain:- It is laid at a depth of 2m. below ground. The is a

perforated PVC pipe with 5 % perforated area and covered by 10cm metal

above and below. The pipe trench has a gradient of 1in 500. The trench is

then backfilled with excavated stuff. Manholes are provided at suitable

locations. This type of drainage scheme did not involve loss of cropped area.

Closed drains compared to open drains, pose less problems except, that

initial cost is comparatively high. Where the cost of irrigated land is

exhorbitant and if maintenance cost is considered, the cost of closed drain,

works out to be cheaper.

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Drainage Problems Related to Irrigation in Maharashtra


The irrigated Deep B.C. Soils pose various problems

related to both irrigation and drainage. Irrigation in such soil is a recent

development and there is very little past experience available with any one.

Perhaps, nowhere in the world, work has been done in such soils and solutions

found out.

Hence, various States and Countries where such soils are

met with, are required to study the problems of irrigated agriculture of these

soils. There has to be close liaison between these States and Countries and each

one must learn from the other and transfer the technology to each other, rather

than working in isolation.

In pursuance of this, Maharashtra State has already

taken steps to conduct applied research work on irrigation and drainage of

Deep B.C. Soil and it will take some time to come out with the results.

However, the conclusions based on the past experience can be drawn as under

for using them in future, until full technology is developed. I

a) Initially, minimum required drains should be provided in the local

depressions and watch the performance and go on adding additional drains

as per the requirement in the unreclaimed portions.

b) An integrated approach such as Conjunctive use of ground water,

imposition of 'X' limit criteria and scientific water management

practices needs to be introduced.

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c) Open drains always pose serious problem of maintenanco and if

recurring cost of maintenance is considered, ultimately, closed drain works

out to be cheaper. Hence, excepting the main drain all father drains need to

be provided as closed drains and, in some cases even the main drain

should be a closed drain, where the natural topography consists of

shallow low lying depressions and avoid, as far as possible, open drains.

d) The quality of drain water is required to be tested every year and its

suitability for reuse is to be known, including the washed out salts and


e) There has to be a regular monitoring cell for monitoring command areas

and identifying the damaged lands and such monitoring is required to

be done for pre-construction and post-construction period, so that each

catchment is closely monitored and remedial measures taken.

f) Problems of drainage occur because of excess irrigation water applied and

vitiated drainage due to silting and clogging of nallas. Excess of water is

apparently due to over irrigation ‘OR’ lack of night irrigation. The farmers

in the command should be trained for better utilization of the water.

g) The seepages through canal and distribution network can be controlled by

providing lining to the canals.

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Drainage Problems Related to Irrigation in Maharashtra


1) Drainage Problems Related to Irrigation of Maharashtra State.

-- by G.V. Abhange

2) Seminar on Drainage Problems in heavy Soil

-- WALMI Publication

3) Land Drainage

-- D.I.R.D.

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