Expediting of five major dam projects saw cost escalation of 2,341 per cent: CAG

The five are among a total 16 projects approved by the Indian Government as part of ‘a Scheme of National Projects’ for water resource development and irrigation

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 24 July 2018

A new report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has revealed that of 16 major irrigation and power projects approved by the Centre, only five are under execution after a decade, and slow physical progress of those led to an overall cost escalation by 2,341 per cent.

The 16 projects had already been identified under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP). AIBP was launched by the Centre from 1996-97 for extending loan assistance to states for the completion of near-complete irrigation projects. However, these were languishing due to various constraints and hurdles including land acquisition, inter-state coordination, financial constraints and issues relating to rehabilitation and re-settlement of affected populations.

Consequently, in February 2008, the Government of India approved these 16 projects under a ‘Scheme of National Projects’. The idea was to ensure coordinated and focussed action to expedite their execution and ensure their early completion. However, the CAG report shows that a decade later, the objectives have clearly not been met.

For starters, only five projects— Indira Sagar Polavaram Project in Andhra Pradesh, Gosikhurd Irrigation Project in Maharashtra, Shahpur Khandi Dam Project in Punjab, Saryu Nahar Pariyojana in Uttar Pradesh and Teesta Barrage Project in West Bengal—with an envisaged irrigation potential of 25.10 lakh hectares, are under implementation.  Despite having created an irrigation potential of 14.53 lakh hectares, a mere 5.36 lakh hectares (37 per cent) irrigation potential is being utilised from the projects. Despite having an envisaged power generation potential of 1236.50 Mega Watt, the power generation from the projects is currently nil.

But even more worrying is the cost factor. The CAG report says that the implementation of the five projects saw an overall cost escalation of 2,341 per cent that threatened their economic viability. The original cost estimate of the five projects was Rs 3,530 crore while the current estimate is Rs 86,172.23 crore. So far, an expenditure of Rs 13,299 crore has already been incurred on these projects.

The remaining 11 projects—Lakhwar project, Renuka Dam project, Kishau project, Ujh project, Ken Betwa project, Kulsi Dam project, Noah Dihing project, Bursar project, 2nd Ravi project and Upper Siang project—with an estimated irrigation potential of 10.48 lakh hectares are yet to commence and are at different stages of approval.

According to the CAG, the ‘tardy implementation’ of the projects was due to management failures and deficiencies in terms of non-adherence to codal provisions relating to survey and investigation that are an essential ingredient for preparation of detailed project reports, ensuring statutory clearance for the project sites and administrative delays in land acquisition.

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