The Ministry of Finance vide press release 15.05.2020 announced that the Union government and State government of West Bengal has signed a loan agreement for $145 million project with World Bank on 15.05.2020. The project is to improve irrigation services and flood management in the Damodar Valley Command Area (DVCA) in West Bengal. The agreement was signed by Shri Sameer Kumar Khare (Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance), Shri Krishna Gupta (Principal Resident Commissioner), and Mr. Junaid Ahmad (Country Director, India) on behalf of Union Government, Government of West Bengal and World Bank respectively.

The project ‘West Bengal Major Irrigation and Flood Management Project’ will likely benefit farmers from five district of West Bengal across 393, 964 ha area with better irrigation services and improved protection against annual flooding to mitigate the impact of climate change. The total value of the project is $413.8 million, co-financed between International Bank for Reconstruction and Development ($145 million), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank ($ 145 million) and Government of West Bengal ($ 123.8 million). The loan of $145 million from IBRD has a grace period of six years and a maturity of 23.5 years.

The DVCA is almost sixty years old and requires restoration. Geographically, the lower Damodar basin historically flood-prone area, it is reported that on average 33,500 hectares of the cropped area and 461,000 people gets affected annually. The project will invest in measures to reduce flooding, including strengthening of embarkments and desilting.

Shri Khare on the occasion said that ‘India is adopting a strategic growth path that uses and manages its water resources more efficiently. This project will assist in improving irrigation and agriculture in the Damodar Valley Command Area, by optimizing the use of surface and groundwater and strengthening flood management, which will help boost agricultural productivity and increase incomes in rural areas.’

Further, to combat various challenges that may be faced while restoration of project several institutional reforms are planned under the project viz. Introduction of modern Management Information System (MIS), benchmarking and evidence-based decision making, promotion of conjunctive use of surface etc. To improve the quality of irrigation services the Irrigation Service Providers will be recruited on a performance basis.

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