The ReClassified Abra River Irrigation System

The newly concreted canal is part of the Upper Primary Canal of the Abra River Irrigation System (ARIS), whose main canals recently underwent rehabilitation through lining/concreting funded under NIA’s CY 2018 and CY 2019 allocations. The main canals (diversion, upper primary and lower primary canals) of ARIS has a total length of about 28 kilometers.

More than a year ago, Abra’s largest irrigation system belonged to another family as a Communal Irrigation System (CIS)—Abra CIS. With the clamor of its farmer-beneficiaries, it was named anew as Abra River Irrigation System and is now categorized as National Irrigation System. 

The Abra River Irrigation System is the largest irrigation system in the Province of Abra with an irrigated area of 1,302 hectares in the Municipalities of Tayum and Bangued for two cropping seasons a year. Its farmer-beneficiaries are organized into a group called Abra River Irrigators’ Association, Inc., registered with Securities and Exchange Commission since 1987 and currently with 1,360 members.

Abra RIS: Its Beginnings

The Abra Communal Irrigation System (CIS) used to be a diesel-fed pump irrigation system with an irrigated area of 400 hectares until the system’s operation stopped sometime in 1976 due to very high cost of operation and breakdown of pumps. 

Through the request of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Bangued, Inc. (RCRBI), the Misereor of Germany (German Catholic Bishops' Organization for Development Cooperation), granted an amount of P16,048,000 as donation for the establishment of the gravity-type Abra River Irrigation Project. The Diocese of Bangued, which was the project holder, also contributed an amount of P4,148,000 and the Government of the Philippines through the NIA allocated P18,615,421 for the project. 

Construction started in 1981 with the NIA and the Diocese of Bangued as project executors. With the project, the intake structure diverting water from Abra River was constructed and so were the other facilities and canal systems which were then connected to the existing NIA-constructed canal systems of then Abra CIS. The project was completed in 1985 with a total service area of 1,905 hectares in the Municipalities of Tayum, Bangued and Pidigan. 

Since its completion in 1985, the operation of the Abra CIS had been under the Diocese of Bangued until 1996 when the system was turned over to the Abra River Irrigators’ Association (ARIA) for management, operation and maintenance. Still, repair works were funded by the NIA.

Irrigation Structures

Irrigation structures of ARIS include siphons, closed conduits, siphon, wasteways, bull cart bridges, road/thresher crossings, elevated flumes, turnouts, drainage culverts and others.

The diversion canal/main canal of ARIS has a total length of 6.43 kilometers and a total of 25 structures. Its upper primary canal/main canal has 132 structures with a total length of 13.095 kilometers while its lower primary canal/main canal has 46 structures with a total length of 8.4 kilometers. It has three laterals (A, B and C) and four sub-laterals (A, B, B-1 and B-2).  

Conversion to a national system

Since the canal systems are extensive that needs regular monitoring and maintenance, the ARIA experienced some difficulties in its operation. This prompted the recall of the clamor of the ARIA in 2016 for the re-classification of Abra CIS to a National Irrigation System (NIS). 

Communal irrigation systems (CIS) are small schemes, usually with less than 1,000 hectares as service area, and with operation and maintenance being turned over to Irrigators’ Associations upon project completion. Meanwhile, NISs are large and medium schemes which are basically operated and maintained by NIA with some portions (usually lateral canals) co-managed with Irrigators’ Associations. 

After series of consultations and with the endorsement of the province’s LGUs, the request for reclassification of the system to NIS was finally approved by the NIA top officials in November 2018. Ceremonial turn-over was held in January 2019 in Tayum, Abra. 

 As NIS, the system, now called, Abra River Irrigation System will have regular fund allocation for its repair and maintenance from the NIA, which manages NISs nationwide and allocates annual budget for their operation and maintenance. 

Just recently, series of rehabilitation works consisting mainly of concrete lining were implemented along ARIS’ main canals, funded under CY 2018 (P11 million) and CY 2019 (P2,200.00 under CCAW and P4,392 million under RRECIS). 

Mr. Elpidio Tubana, one of the Board of Trustees of the ARIA and President of the Active Cabanayan Farmers’ Associations of District 2, said “In the past, main canal which were not yet concrete-lined were muddy and its sidewalls were prone to small erosions which makes flow of water slow-moving. Now, with the concrete lining, more water has since flowed along the main canal.”

Photos: 
Intake: The 35-year old intake of the Abra River Irrigation System still serves its purpose, diverting irrigation water from the river towards the main canals irrigating more than 1,000 hectares. The intake was constructed in 1985 through the grant of the German Catholic Bishops' Organization for Development Cooperation and then connected to the canals constructed by NIA. 

Canal: The newly concreted canal is part of the Upper Primary Canal of the Abra River Irrigation System (ARIS), whose main canals recently underwent rehabilitation through lining/concreting funded under NIA’s CY 2018 and CY 2019 allocations. The main canals (diversion, upper primary and lower primary canals) of ARIS has a total length of about 28 kilometers.