The North Koel Reservoir Project is a major inter-state irrigation initiative with its command area spanning the states of Bihar and Jharkhand. The project comprises a dam on the North Koel river near Kutku village in Latehar district, Jharkhand, along with a barrage situated 96 km downstream of the dam at Mohammadganj in Palamu district, Jharkhand. Additionally, the project features a Right Main Canal (RMC) and Left Main Canal (LMC) originating from the barrage.
In an important development aimed at bolstering irrigation prospects in drought-prone areas of Bihar and Jharkhand, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by PM Narendra Modi, has given its approval to a proposal from the Department of Water Resources, River Development, and Ganga Rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti. The proposal entails the completion of the balance works of the North Koel Reservoir Project at a revised cost of Rs. 2,430.76 crore, with the central share amounting to Rs. 1,836.41 crore. This decision marks a substantial increase from the previously approved balance cost of Rs. 1,622.27 crore (central share: Rs. 1,378.60 crore) back in August 2017.
This project’s construction was initiated in 1972 by the Government of Bihar, funded by its own resources. However, work ceased in 1993 due to concerns raised by the Forest Department of Bihar regarding the potential threat posed to the Betla National Park and Palamu Tiger Reserve by the accumulating water in the dam. At the time of its halt, the project was providing annual irrigation to 71,720 hectares.
Following the bifurcation of Bihar in November 2000, the dam and barrage, now considered headworks, came under the jurisdiction of Jharkhand. The Left Main Canal, spanning 11.89 km, also falls entirely within Jharkhand. However, a portion of the Right Main Canal, measuring 31.40 km, is located in Jharkhand, while the remaining 79.04 km extends into Bihar.
In 2016, recognizing the need to harness the project’s intended benefits, the Government of India decided to provide assistance for the completion of the North Koel Reservoir Project. This decision involved reducing the reservoir level to safeguard the core area of the Palamu Tiger Reserve.
In August 2017, the Union Cabinet approved the proposal to complete the balance works of the project, with an estimated expenditure of Rs. 1,622.27 crore. Subsequently, in response to requests from both State Governments, additional components were deemed necessary. This included the complete lining of the RMC and LMC, remodeling of route structures, the construction of new structures, and a one-time Special Package for the Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Project Affected Families (PAFs). These considerations led to the preparation of a revised cost estimate for the project.
Out of the total cost of the balance works amounting to Rs. 2,430.76 crore, the Central government will provide Rs. 1,836.41 crore. Upon the completion of the balance works, the North Koel Reservoir Project is expected to offer additional annual irrigation to 42,301 hectares in the four drought-prone districts of Jharkhand and Bihar. This move represents a significant stride towards harnessing water resources for agricultural development in the region and ensuring a brighter future for its farming communities..