Incomplete irrigation projects overshoot budget

The state governments' failure to complete irrigation projects has led to an escalation of their combined cost by close to a whopping one lakh crore rupees. According to the Planning Commission, 383 irrigation projects in 23 states have spilled over from the Ninth Five-Year Plan to the tenth plan

 
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- (Credit: Amit Shanker / CSE)The state governments' failure to complete irrigation projects has led to an escalation of their combined cost by close to a whopping one lakh crore rupees. According to the Planning Commission, 383 irrigation projects in 23 states have spilled over from the Ninth Five-Year Plan to the tenth plan.

These projects were to irrigate more than 20 million hectares, reducing the farmers' dependence on the monsoon. By the end of the ninth plan, only 35 per cent of the area was covered. Planning Commission sources reveal that the number of incomplete projects is proportional to the size of the state. The commission has calculated the costs by deducting the actual spending on the projects during the ninth plan from the latest estimates in the tenth plan. As the planned fund lapses at the end of the plan period, it indicates the overall cost.

The delay in implementation is attributed to several factors. For one, the allocation to the sector in the Union budget has been coming down, point out sources. Another reason is that the number of irrigation projects has been increasing over time, without the earlier ones getting completed. As a result, there are lots of projects and the available money is spread too thin. It is quite likely that the commission might, therefore, ask states to complete old projects before seeking clearance for new ones.

The land acquisition process for projects has hit many obstacles. Pending approvals for diversion of forestland, and endless litigation over compensation and rehabilitation have made things more complex. In the case of projects that are partly funded by the Union government, the broke state governments have not chipped in with their share. The plan panel is likely to recommend that any future clearances of irrigation projects will be conditional on reforms in their management.

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