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IRRIGATION AND DRAINAGE

Irrig. and Drain. 50: 237 248 (2001)


DOI: 10.1002/ird.18

PERFORMANCE EVALUATION OF RUBBER DAM PROJECTS OF


BANGLADESH IN IRRIGATION DEVELOPMENT1
ABUL FAZAL M. SALEH* AND M. SHAHJAHAN MONDAL
Institute of Flood Control and Drainage Research, Bangladesh Uni6ersity of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka 1000, Bangladesh

ABSTRACT
Performance of the Bakkhali and Idgaon rubber dam projects of south-eastern Bangladesh has been
evaluated using some standard indicators, broadly classified into three groups: hydraulic, agricultural and
socio-economic. For the quantitative and qualitative assessment of the indicators, field measurements and
a questionnaire survey were conducted during the 199899 irrigation season. Results of the analyses of
hydraulic indicators showed that the relative water supply was adequate in the Bakkali project, but was
inadequate in the Idgaon project. In both projects, water delivery performance was very low because
target volumes were overestimated in the feasibility reports. The total water utilization in the Idgaon
project was 28% lower compared to the Bakkhali project because of better management and deficit
irrigation applied in the former. Agricultural performance, evaluated in terms of irrigated area, was very
poor because of overestimation of the target command area in both projects, while the same evaluated in
terms of crop yield and water productivity was satisfactory. Analyses of socio-economic indicators showed
that both the rubber dam projects were financially viable. A comparative capital and O&M cost analysis
of different irrigation technologies has been carried out to ascertain the viability of rubber dam
technology in irrigation development. Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
KEY WORDS:

performance evaluation; performance indicators; rubber dam

SUME

RE
La performance des projets de barrages en caoutchouc a` Bakkhali et a` Idgaon au sud-est du Bangladesh
a ete evaluee en se servant de quelques indicateurs standard, classes a` peu pre`s en trois groupes:
hydrauliques, agricoles et socio-economiques. Pour levaluation quantitative et qualitative des indicateurs,
des mesures sur le terrain et une enquete en questionnaire ont eu lieu pendant la saison dirrigation de
199899. Les resultats des analyses des indicateurs hydrauliques ont montre que la distribution relative
des eaux etait suffisante dans le projet Bakkhali, mais insuffisante a` Idgaon. Dans tous les deux projets
la performance de la livraison de leau etait tre`s faible parce que les volumes prevues ont ete surestimees
dans les etudes de faisabilite. Lutilisation totale de leau au projet Idgaon etait 28% inferieur a` celui de
Bakkhari a` cause dune gestion superieure et lirrigation deficitaire appliquee dans le premier. La
performance agricole, evaluee a` legard de la superficie irriguee, etait tre`s faible parce quon avait
surestime la superficie controlee prevue dans tous les deux projets, pendant que la meme evaluee a` legard
de la recolte et de la productivite de leau etait satisfaisante. Des analyses des indicateurs socioeconomiques ont montre que tous les deux projets de barrages en caoutchouc etaient viables du point de
vue financier. Une analyse comparative des couts de capitaux et de O&M de differents technologies

* Correspondence to: Control and Drainage Research, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka 1000,
Bangladesh.
1
Evaluation de la performance des projets de barrages en caoutchouc au Bangladesh en developpement dirrigation.

Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Recei6ed 25 July 2000


Re6ised 31 January 2001
Accepted 8 February 2001

238

A.F.M. SALEH AND M.S. MONDAL

dirrigation a e te faite pour e tablir la viabilite de la technologie des barrages en caoutchouc en


de veloppement dirrigation. Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
S:
MOTS CLE

e valuation de la performance; indicateurs de performance; barrages en caoutchouc

INTRODUCTION
In Bangladesh, irrigated agriculture is largely dependent on groundwater. The contribution of
surface water to the total irrigated area (3.8 million ha) was about 30% during the 1997 98 dry
season (NMIDP, 1999). Rubber dams for impounding surface water for irrigation are a
comparatively new technology and were introduced in Bangladesh by the Local Government
Engineering Department (LGED) with technical assistance from the Institute of Water Conservancy and Hydroelectric Power Research, China in 1995. Considering technical and economical
viability, only two pilot rubber dams, Bakkhali and Idgaon rubber dams, were constructed in May
1995 and have been in operation since December 1995. A third rubber dam has recently been
constructed on the Bhogai river of Sherpur (in operation since December 1998) and it has been
planned to implement another 10 rubber dam projects by the year 2003. Although more than 2000
rubber dams have been constructed worldwide including Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong,
China, Indonesia and Thailand, no holistic evaluation of the performance of these projects in
irrigation development has been made. The two rubber dam projects (Bakkhali and Idgaon) of
Bangladesh have been in operation for four years and no independent study has been made on
the performance of the technology in irrigation development. This study was therefore undertaken
to evaluate the performance of these two projects in realizing the goals set forth in the feasibility
reports using performance indicators.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECTS


The rubber dam structure is composed of four parts: rubber bag, anchorage, filling and emptying
system (pump house) and foundation, as shown in Figure 1. Water is impounded by inflating the
rubber bag with water. When deflated, the body of the dam lies flat on the river bottom without
causing any obstruction to the river flow. As there are no gates or lifting structures, the operation
and maintenance (O&M) of the dam are simple and cheap. The span of the dam can be as long
as 100 m without any dividing piers and the height of the dam can be adjusted to regulate the
flow.
Both Bakkhali and Idgaon rubber dams are located in south-east Bangladesh, on the Bakkhali
and Idgaon rivers, respectively. At the Bakkhali rubber dam project the river is tidal and the dam
conserves fresh water upstream and prevents intrusion of saline water from the downstream Bay
of Bengal. The project has 124 blocks (irrigation units); each block is based on a low-lift pump
(LLP) that pumps in impounded water from the river. The river at the Idgaon dam site is non-tidal
and the project has 18 turnouts and 70 blocks; each turnout has a number of blocks varying from
1 to 9. Water head resulting from impounding allows delivery to the blocks by gravity. It was
estimated that about 80 and 20 million m3 of water would be conserved by the Bakkhali and
Idgaon dams, respectively during January May (Siddque, 1996) which would be lifted by LLPs
and diverted through turnouts to irrigate 6000 ha and 2000 ha of boro (winter) rice, respectively
(LGED, 1994). The salient features of rubber dam projects are given in Table I. The total costs
of the projects shown in the table are the costs of the dams only and do not include the costs
of the distribution systems which were there before the installation of the rubber dams.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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EVALUATION OF RUBBER DAM PROJECTS OF BANGLADESH

239

Figure 1. A typical cross-section of a rubber dam

Two rice crops are grown in both the projects during the aman or wet (July November) and
boro or dry (December April) seasons; aman rice is totally rainfed and the boro rice is irrigated.
The soil texture of both projects is predominantly sandy loam. The mean, 80% dependable and
the 1998 99 boro season rainfall at Coxs Bazar, are shown in Table II. The unique feature of
the two rubber dam projects is that the O&M of the projects are carried out totally by the
beneficiaries through democratically elected three-tier committees: the central management
committee (CMC), the operation and management committee (OMC), and the block management committee (BMC).

METHODOLOGY
In the present study, evaluation of the performance of the two rubber dam projects was carried
out using a standard set of performance indicators. Before the selection of the indicators, the
Table I. Salient features of the Bakkhali and Idgaon rubber dam projects

Dam length (m)


Dam height (m)
Maximum retention depth (m)
Maximum flood flow (m3 s1)
Minimum flow (m3 s1)
Material of dam body
Shell thickness of dam body (mm)
Filling pump capacity (m3 h1)
Filling/emptying time (h)
Irrigation area (ha)
Total cost (million taka*)

Bakkhali dam

Idgaon dam

84
3.5
4
1073
1
Reinforced rubber
7
150
810
6000
36

52
3
3
600

Reinforced rubber
6
100
810
2000
18

* At 1995 prices (1US$=taka (Tk) 45).


Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Irrig. and Drain. 50: 237 248 (2001)

240

A.F.M. SALEH AND M.S. MONDAL

Table II. Mean, 80% dependable and 199899 monthly rainfalls (mm) at Coxs Bazar
during the dry season
Month

December

January

February

March

April

Mean rainfall
80% dependable
199899

7.8
0
0

6.6
0
0

12.7
0
0

19.8
0
0

102.2
3.3
0

performance indicators suggested by Molden and Gates (1990), Bos et al. (1993) and the
International Irrigation Management Institute (Molden et al., 1998), etc. were thoroughly
reviewed. Although it was initially planned to use performance indicators extensively, lack of
some basic data on targets/goals and designed values constrained wider application of the
recommended indicators. The indicators finally selected were classified as hydraulic, agricultural and socio-economic indicators.
Hydraulic indicators
Hydraulic indicators deal with lifting/diversion and conveyance of irrigation water from the
source to the farmers fields by management of irrigation facilities. The hydraulic indicators
used in the performance evaluation were as follows.
Water deli6ery performance. This indicator determines the extent to which water is delivered (total volume) as planned during the irrigation season and is defined as
Water delivery performance=

Actual volume delivered


Target volume

Con6eyance loss ratio. This ratio, which indicates the relative amount of water loss in a
canal reach due to seepage, leakage, over flow, etc., is defined as
Conveyance loss ratio=

Inflow outflow
Inflow

Relati6e water supply (RWS). RWS is the most comprehensive measure of adequacy and
needs to be measured over a period of time for it to be effective as an indicator. The
indicator, proposed by Levine (1982), is defined as
RWS =

Irrigation + rainfall
ET + S&P

where ET is crop evapotranspiration and S&P is seepage and percolation loss. An RWS
value of 1 or higher indicates adequate and less than 1 indicates inadequate supply of
irrigation.
Agricultural indicators
Agricultural indicators measure the contribution of the irrigation activity to the economy
in relation to consumption of the increasingly scarce resource, water. The main outputs
(actual irrigated area, crop yield) of the major inputs (water, land and finances) in an
irrigated agricultural system are directly reflected by these indicators. The agricultural indicators used in the performance evaluation were as follows.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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EVALUATION OF RUBBER DAM PROJECTS OF BANGLADESH

241

Irrigated area performance. This indicator becomes more important where water is a limiting resource towards irrigation development. The indicator is expressed as
Irrigated area performance =

Actual irrigated area


Target area

Yield performance. This indicator becomes more important where land is a limiting resource towards irrigation development. The indicator is expressed as
Yield performance=

Actual yield
Target yield

The yield performance also indicates the reliability of the project as water is one of the many
inputs required for a high yield. If the system is reliable, then the farmers are willing to
invest for additional inputs in order to achieve a high yield.
Water producti6ity performance. Water productivity (kg of output per unit m3 of water
used) indicates the efficiency in use of water for producing the ultimate output, the crop
yield. This is expressed as
Water productivity performance=

Actual productivity
Target productivity

Socio-economic indicators
The socio-economic indicators relate to long-term impacts of pursuing a particular set of
operational and agricultural strategies. Their main utility is to address concerns that may
have greater value to policy makers than to irrigation system managers. As all the socio-economic indicators used are based on irrigation fee, the term needs to be qualified. The
farmers in both projects pay an irrigation fee to the BMCs for providing water. This
irrigation fee includes costs of energy and spares, costs of construction, rehabilitation and
maintenance of the canal system, salary of pump operator and water manager, etc. and a
fixed cost imposed by the OMCs for the O&M of the rubber dam. Thus, the money
collected from the farmers as irrigation fee also includes a fee for the O&M of the rubber
dam. For the sake of clarity, the former is termed irrigation fee and the latter O&M fee.
The socio-economic indicators used in the performance evaluation were as follows.
Fee collection performance. This indicator is used where the irrigation agency collects
money from farmers for the O&M of the project. The indicator is expressed as
Fee collection performance =

O&M fees collected


O&M fees imposed

Economic 6iability. The economic viability of a project determines how much of the investments made are going to be recovered over the life of the project. The costs should include
both capital and O&M costs. But, as in public irrigation projects of Bangladesh the capital
costs are not recovered from the beneficiaries, only the O&M costs per ha per year of actual
cultivated area have been considered in this study. Accordingly, the economic viability indicator has been modified into financial viability. The indicator is thus defined as
Financial viability =

O&M fee per ha


O&M costs per ha

Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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A.F.M. SALEH AND M.S. MONDAL

Profitability of farmers. This indicator deals with the profitability of farmers at the individual farm level. The indicator is expressed as
Profitability of farmers=

Benefit of irrigation per ha


Irrigation fee per ha

The benefit of irrigation is the difference in net benefit between an irrigated and non-irrigated crop. As rice could not have been grown in the study area without irrigation, the net
benefit per ha of irrigated rice has been considered as the benefit of irrigation.

DATA COLLECTION
For the evaluation of the indicators, data were collected through actual field measurements,
a questionnaire survey, field-level discussions with project officials/employees (LGED in particular), local people, project farmers, members of different operation and management committees, etc. Frequent field visits, approximately one in each month, were made during the
1998 99 dry season (December to May) for data collection and monitoring purposes. Data
on discharges of LLPs/turnouts, conveyance losses in the irrigation canals and length of
irrigation canals were collected through direct measurements. Discharges were measured with
the propeller-type current meter. The areavelocity method with one point velocity measurement was used to compute discharges. To find conveyance losses in the irrigation canals, the
inflow outflow method (with consecutive measurement) was used with generally 100 m sections. To find average combined S&P and ET losses and field water status, 10 PVC tubes
per project, each of 100 cm in length and 2.5 cm in diameter, 50 cm being above and the
rest below the land surface, were installed in the rice fields. Water-level readings of rainless
days when irrigation was also not applied were used for the estimation of S&P loss by using
the water balance method. Soil samples were collected from a number of representative
locations of both projects and analysed in the laboratory to obtain the soil texture of the
project areas. Long-term available rainfall and pan evaporation data of Coxs Bazar were
collected from the local weather station of the Bangladesh Meteorological Department and
discharge data of the Bakkhali river at Ramu from the Bangladesh Water Development
Board.
Questionnaire surveys were conducted during the 1998 99 dry season to collect quantitative data on farming practices, input uses, crop yields, irrigation fees, costs and returns of
production, etc., and qualitative data on timeliness of irrigation supply, farmers participation
in O&M, performance of different tiers of irrigation committees, etc. The stratified random
sampling technique was followed to select 100 farmers from each project. To collect data on
command area, operating hours, etc., each LLP manager of the Bakkhali project was provided with a survey form with a request to keep records of the necessary information. The
information provided was collected and verified during the field visits. A similar form was
also used to collect information on the command area and irrigation schedule from the
turnout managers of the Idgaon project. Interviews were arranged with the members of the
different tiers of the farmers O&M committees to collect information on irrigation fees,
O&M costs and maintenance procedure. LGED and local officials were also interviewed to
collect information regarding the performance of the rubber dam projects.
Copyright 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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EVALUATION OF RUBBER DAM PROJECTS OF BANGLADESH

243

PERFORMANCE EVALUATION
E6aluation of hydraulic indicators
Water deli6ery performance. Discharges of 26 LLPs and 14 turnouts, selected randomly from
124 LLPs and 18 turnouts of the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively, were measured
during the 1998 99 boro season. The average discharge of the LLPs was 56 litres per second
(lps). Data on LLP operating hours during different months of the 1998 99 boro season were
collected from the block managers. The pump discharge was multiplied by the operating hours
to obtain lifted volume and hence total lifted volume (14.91 million m3). Data on the operating
periods of each turnout of the Idgaon project were collected from the register maintained by the
OMC. The total volume of water (7.52 million m3) diverted from the Idgaon river was estimated
by multiplying the different turnout discharges with the corresponding operating hours. To
compute water delivery performance, the target volumes of water planned for lifting/diversion
were taken as 80 and 20 million m3 for the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively. The
water delivery performance of the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects was found as 0.19 and 0.38,
respectively and was very low. It is not clear why the target volumes were so high and how they
were estimated.
Con6eyance loss ratio. Average conveyance losses in the irrigation canals, which were unlined,
were found to be 8.7 and 6.0 m3 day 1 per square meter of wetted perimeter at the Bakkhali
and Idgaon projects, respectively. The average conveyance loss ratios in the first 100 m of the
canals were 20.6 and 12.6% at the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively. As data on target
conveyance loss ratios were not available, a comparison could not be made. But the measured
losses were comparable with the conveyance losses found by Miah (1984), Dutta (1993), Mondal
(2000), etc. in Bangladesh. Even though the two projects have a similar type of soil, the lower
loss at the Idgaon project compared to the Bakkhali project may have been due to the higher
elevation of the surrounding farmers fields compared to the elevation of the water levels in the
irrigation canals at Idgaon.
Relati6e water supply (RWS). Field water statuses from two typical PVC tubes, one for each
project, during the FebruaryApril period 1999 are given in Figure 2. In the figure, a rise in
water table indicates irrigation and existence of the water table above zero (ground level)
indicates standing water. From the figure, it is clear that standing water was maintained almost
throughout the boro season in the Bakkhali project, but in the Idgaon project the water table fell
below ground level frequently during the months of March and April and irrigation was only
applied when the fields were severely cracked. On an average, a total of about 14 irrigations
were applied with an interval of around six days. Average combined S&P and ET losses were
calculated from the tube-reading data and were found to be 8.5 and 15.7 mm day 1 at the
Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively. Average pan evaporation during the same period
was 5.4 mm day 1. For rice, the pan evaporation data represent the crop ET well (Tomar and
OToole, 1980). So, the average S&P losses were 3.1 and 10.3 mm day 1 in the Bakkhali and
Idgaon projects, respectively. Because standing water was not maintained, thus exposing the
puddled soil to the sun, cracks developed in the field and subsequent irrigation resulted in a
higher S&P loss at the Idgaon project.
To compute RWS, the average volume of water used for irrigation in 1998 99 was converted
to a depth divided by the command area. The depths of water thus obtained were 1133 and 819
mm at the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively. As can be seen from Table II, there was
no rainfall in the study area during the 199899 boro season. The average combined S&P and
ET losses at the Bakkhali project (8.5 mm day 1) were used for calculating the RWS for both
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A.F.M. SALEH AND M.S. MONDAL

the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects. This was done because the S&P and ET losses at the Idgaon
project were high (15.7 mm day 1) and did not represent the S&P loss under normal irrigation
management practice (irrigation is normally applied before the development of large cracks in
the fields). A study at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has shown that the S&P
rate increased from 9 mm day 1 under continuous saturated conditions to 24 mm day 1 under
alternate wetting and drying conditions due to cracks that developed in the field during the
drying periods (Tabbal et al., 1992). Average combined S&P and ET losses were multiplied by
the average length of the crop season (transplanting to harvesting) to compute the denominator
of the RWS equation. The RWS values were found to be 1.21 and 0.80 for the Bakkhali and
Idgaon projects, respectively. The RWS values show that the farmers at the Bakkhali project are
getting adequate water for irrigation. On the other hand, at the Idgaon project, the farmers are
actually under-irrigating. These findings are also evident from the field water status graphs
(Figure 2).
E6aluation of agricultural indicators
Irrigated area performance. The actual command areas of the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects
during the 1998 99 boro season were 1315 and 918 ha, respectively. The target command areas
as mentioned earlier were 6000 and 2000 ha at the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively.
Irrigated area performance was found to be 0.22 for Bakkhali and 0.46 for Idgaon. Thus, the
irrigated area performance of both projects was poor. It seems that the target areas of both
projects were overestimated and the details of these calculations were not available.
Yield performance. Average yields of 5.0 t ha 1 at Bakkhali and 4.9 t ha 1 at Idgaon were
found from the questionnaire survey. Since no data on target yields were given in the feasibility
reports of the projects, target yields were taken as 5.56 t ha 1 as mentioned in the feasibility
report of the Bhogai Rubber Dam Project (LGED, 1997). Yield performance was found to be
0.90 for Bakkhali and 0.88 for the Idgaon project. So, the yield performance of both projects
during the 1998 99 boro season was satisfactory. The yield performance of the Idgaon project

Figure 2. Variation of field statuses during the 1998 99 boro season in two typical PVC tubes (soil surface=0 cm)
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Table III. Year-wise O&M fee collection statuses of the Bakkhali and Idgaon rubber
dam projects
Year

199596
199697
199798

Rate of O&M fee (Tk ha1)

Fee collection performance (%)

Bakkhali

Idgaon

Bakkhali

Idgaon

185
185
247

185
185
247

63
74
52

97
99
94

has proved that for irrigated high-yielding variety (HYV) rice, it is not necessary to maintain
standing water in the field, and with proper water management, the irrigation requirement can
be reduced significantly. IRRI studies have shown that reduction of the irrigation requirement
by about 40% from the traditional practice of continuous flooding is possible without reduction
in rice yield (Tabbal et al., 1992). Similar findings have also been reported in Bangladesh by the
Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI, 1998).
Water producti6ity performance. The target water productivity for the Bakkhali and Idgaon
projects was calculated as 0.42 and 0.56 kg m 3 respectively. With actual yield and the volume
of water utilized, the actual productivity was 0.44 and 0.60 kg m 3 for the Bakkhali and Idgaon
projects. Hence, the water productivity performance for the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects was
1.05 and 1.07, respectively. These values show that although both projects are a long way short
of reaching the irrigated area targets, they have been using all the available water very efficiently
and getting the desired output.
E6aluation of socio-economic indicators
Fee collection performance. The farmers pay an irrigation fee of Tk4430 and Tk2139 per ha
to the BMCs in the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively, which includes an O&M fee of
Tk247 per ha, imposed by the OMCs, for the O&M of the rubber dams. The irrigation fee is
higher in the Bakkhali project (where water is delivered by pumps), because it includes the costs
of energy, pumps and spares. It was reported by the farmers in both projects that they have to
pay the irrigation fees before they can harvest the crop. If the farmers fail to pay the irrigation
fee then either they are not allowed to harvest the crop or a portion of the harvested crop
commensurate with the irrigation fee is collected by the BMCs. Thus, the irrigation fee
collection performance is 100% in both the projects. Even though the BMCs have collected the
O&M fees from the farmers, some of the BMCs (especially at the Bakkhali project) have not
deposited the same to the OMCs, with the plea that their expenses were higher.
The rates and collection statuses of O&M fees imposed by the OMCs on the BMCs during
different years are shown in Table III. It is seen from the table that the fee collection
performance at the Idgaon project is excellent, especially in the context of Bangladesh, and
much better than that of the Bakkhali project.
Financial 6iability. The actual O&M costs of the rubber dam projects were Tk98 and Tk101
per ha in the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively. The costs include cost of electricity,
salary of guards, cost of minor repair of the dam body, etc. Even though the imposed O&M fee
per ha of Tk247 is about 2.5 times the actual costs, 52 and 94% of the total fee were collected
by the OMCs at the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively (Table III). Thus, the financial
viability was found to be 1.31 for Bakkhali and 2.30 for Idgaon. The OMCs are saving the
balance so that they can replace the existing rubber bags (costing Tk4.4m. and Tk1.7m. (LGED,
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Table IV. Costs and benefits (Tk* ha1) of HYV boro production from farmers
perspectives in the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects
Name of item

Bakkhali

Idgaon

Total input cost (a)


Total labour cost (b)
Labour cost excluding family labour (c)
Irrigation fee (d)
Total costs (a+b)
Gross benefit (e)
Net benefit (eab)
Net benefit excluding family labour (eac)

16 993
6 935
4 402
4 330
23 928
32 919
8 991
11 568

19 199
7 551
4 558
2 139
26 750
34 356
7 606
10 599

* At 1999 prices (1US$= Tk52).

1994) for the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively) at the end of their life of about 20
years.
Profitability of farmers. The costs and benefits of HYV boro production from farmers
perspectives are given in Table IV. The total input costs include costs of land rent and irrigation
but not labour. The net benefit is positive in both projects. Dividing net benefit by the
corresponding irrigation fee, the profitability of farmers was found to be 2.08 for Bakkhali and
3.56 for Idgaon. Thus, growing of HYV boro rice with irrigation is profitable for farmers of
both projects. The higher profitability in Idgaon compared to Bakkhali was due to the lower
irrigation fee in the former project.
The comparative values of different performance indicators for the two projects are given in
Table V.

DISCUSSION
The target volumes of water availability, as mentioned earlier, estimated in the feasibility reports
were 80 and 20 million m3 for the Bakkhali and Idgaon projects, respectively. It was found from
reanalysis of the discharge data of the Bakkhali river that this estimation was probably based on
25% dependability, which encounters a high risk of uncertainty in the estimated water availability (in three out of four years the designed volume of water may not be available for irrigation).
The average and 80% dependable flow of the Bakkhali river on a 10-day basis from January to
May using log-normal distribution were 62.8 and 30.2 million m3, respectively. Moreover, the
Table V. Values of performance indicators for Bakhali and Idgaon rubber dam projects
(%)
Performance indicator

Bakkahli project

Idgaon project

Water delivery performance


Conveyance loss ratio
Relative water supply
Irrigated area performance
Yield performance
Water productivity performance
Fee collection performance
Financial viability
Profitability of farmers

19
21
121
22
90
105
52
131
208

38
13
80
46
88
107
94
230
356

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Table VI. Comparative costs (Tk ha1) of irrigation development by rubber dams and
other technologies
Project

Capital cost

O&M cost

O&M fee

Chandpur Irrigation Project (CIP)*


Manu River Project (MRP)*
Bakkhali Rubber Dam Project
Idgaon Rubber Dam Project

38 032
199 748
39 924
19 063

969
392
98
101

247
247
247
247

* At 1995 prices (Saleh and Ahmed, 1997).

At 1995 prices considering actual command area.

flow in May is not available for irrigation as the boro rice is harvested within April in both projects.
The potential command area of the Bakkhali project was determined in the present study from
80% dependable flow of the Bakkhali river as 1320 ha. In contrast, the actual command area
increased steadily from 928 ha in 1995 96 to 1315 ha in 199798. During 1998 99, the actual
command area remained the same as in the previous year. So, it can safely be concluded that the
planned command area of the Bakkhali project (6000 ha) was unrealistic and could never be
achieved in the future. A similar analysis could not be done for the Idgaon project because of
a lack of discharge data of the Idgaon river.
A comparison of the costs of irrigation development by rubber dams and two other common
(barrage and pump irrigation) technologies in Bangladesh was made and the costs are given in
Table VI. Both the projects have command areas of about 6000 ha, the same as the planned area
of the Bakkhali project. It is evident from the table that per hectare irrigation development costs
using a rubber dam are similar to those of pump irrigation (as in CIP). But, if irrigation
development through barrages is considered (as in MRP), then the rubber dam technology is much
cheaper. The table also shows that the O&M cost of rubber dams is very low compared to either
a barrage or pump irrigation system. Thus, if found technically feasible and considering the lower
O&M cost, rubber dam technology is a more economically viable option than the other irrigation
technologies adopted in the medium- to large-scale projects of Bangladesh.
CONCLUSIONS
The performance of the Bakkhali and Idgaon rubber dam projects in terms of hydraulic,
agricultural and socio-economic indicators can be considered satisfactory. The low values of
delivery and irrigated area performance have resulted not from the poor performance of the
projects but because of overestimated target values. The Bakkhali project has probably attained
its potential command area and further increase in area is not recommended unless the farmers
resort to improved irrigation management. The farmers of the Idgaon project have adopted
improved irrigation management and are using 28% less water than the Bakkhali project without
having any significant effect on the crop yield. Considering both the capital and the lower O&M
costs of irrigation development, rubber dam technology is more economically viable than
traditional technologies, and if found technically feasible, the technology is recommended in the
medium- to large-scale projects of Bangladesh.
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