CAG flags series of overruns in UP’s major irrigation projects

Outcomes unachieved despite UP government spending over 4,101 crore on major irrigation projects

By Zumbish
Published: Thursday 17 August 2023
The findings are critical as the economy of Uttar Pradesh is primarily agrarian, with about 65 per cent of the total population dependent on agriculture. Representative photo: iStock

Canal irrigation is provided in only 17 per cent of Uttar Pradesh’s net irrigated area despite the government pumping huge amounts of money into its major irrigation projects, found a performance audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).

Up to Rs 3,419.37 crore and Rs 682.5 crore have been spent on two major canal irrigation projects — Bansagar Canal Project and the modernisation of the Chaudhary Charan Singh Lahchura Dam Project — from 1996-1997 to 2020-21 and 1978-1979 to 2017-2018, respectively, the report pointed out. The latter amount also has Pahari Dam in its ambit.

The audit carried out to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the two canal projects identified the areas that require systemic corrections and improvements. 

Also read: Rs 79 crore transferred to ineligible beneficiaries under NSAP, finds CAG

Bansagar Canal Project envisaged the construction of canal systems in Uttar Pradesh to utilise 34,008 million cubic feet of water from the Bansagar Dam, the document noted. The project aimed to increase the irrigation intensity of the nine existing canal systems from 85-150 per cent in the Culturable Command Area (CCA) of 0.23 million hectares in Prayagraj and Mirzapur districts. CCA is the cultivable area that can be irrigated using a project.

On the other hand, Chaudhary Charan Singh Lahchura Dam Project provides water to Dhasan Canal System, with a CCA of 97,169-hectare area in Mahoba and Hamirpur districts. Lahchura Dam, apart from its own storage, receives water from Pahari Dam.

The outcomes pertaining to the augmentation of water availability in the canal network, creation of additional irrigation intensity and change in cropping pattern remained largely unachieved due to deficient planning for remodelling the existing canal systems. It pointed out insufficient storage capacity of dams, inadequate supply of water in canals and consequently non-operation of canals for full cropping period, among other reasons.

Both the selected irrigation projects had significant issues in planning as well as execution. In Bansagar Canal Project, issues like the current availability of water in the canal systems and capacity enhancement of existing canal systems were either not addressed, or inadequate provisions were made in the detailed project reports, the report added. Due to this, the envisaged objective of enhancing the irrigation intensity of the canal could not be achieved. 

The scope of the project for modernising Lahchura and Pahari dams Projects was limited to replacing the old structures of the dams. The insufficient water storage capacity of the dams was not addressed. As a result, the project would not be able to provide canal irrigation in the entire command area (the area which can be reliably irrigated from a source) of 97,169 hectares, the report highlighted. 

The scope of the construction works in both projects could not be firmed up and kept changing during the course of the execution. Due to this, Bansagar Canal Project was delayed for more than 14 years and six years delay in the case of Lahchura Dam Project. These accompanied a huge cost overrun.

Also read: Panchayati Raj institutions in Bihar submitted utilisation certificates for only 42% of grants received: CAG

The performance audit also pointed out serious lapses. In Bansagar Canal Project, the provision of cost escalation in labour, petroleum, oil and lubricant and material was included belatedly after technical bid evaluation, it stated. “Ineligible contractors were awarded works in Lahchura Dam project,” the report noticed.

In the execution of works, irregularities such as unjustified payment of price adjustment, irregular grant of interest-free advances to contractors and unauthorised sanction of variations in the quantities of the contract were noticed. Grant of time extension without proper justifications, inadequate quality control, etc., were also noticed.

The envisaged connectivity between canals was also not achieved, it added. “The canal networks were not maintained regularly. Convergence efforts impacting the outcomes were also not adequate as there were short / delayed supply of certified seeds from the government seed stores and inadequate soil testing in the selected villages,” the document stressed.

The command area of the canal systems was also not developed, restricting the utilisation of created irrigation intensity. The report also suggested the Uttar Pradesh government to explore the feasibility of enhancing the storage capacity of Lahchura and Pahari dams so as to store adequate water from Dhasan river. 

It also recommended the government to take up remodelling / restoration works in the nine canal systems of Bansagar Canal Project and Dhasan Canal System in an efficient and effective way. 

CAG also recommended the state government to investigate the matter of defective surveys and faulty assessment of requirements of the projects. “Series of delays need to be looked into and remedial measures may be taken to ensure competence of contractor, penalty for delays and timelines in contract conditions for future projects.”

The audit further disclosed that the number of different structures, such as regulators, cross drainage, canal bridges, escape and service roads increased manifold (20 per cent to 581 per cent) during the entire period of execution of work (1994-2019).

The findings are critical as the economy of Uttar Pradesh is primarily agrarian, with about 65 per cent of the total population dependent on agriculture. Of a total 24.09 million hectare area of the state, 18.77 million hectares is agricultural land, of which 77 per cent is the net irrigated area.

Read more:

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.