Maharashtra to move away from big dams?

CM Fadnavis said his government is considering Madhya Pradesh pattern of drought-proofing that follows small-scale water conservation measures

By Aparna Pallavi
Published: Wednesday 10 December 2014

A farmer goes down to the dry bed of Babhulgaon dam in Osmanabad to fetch his cattle

Will Maharashtra finally do away with big-dam centric water management and focus on decentralised water conservation? If Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is to be believed, the new government is thinking in that direction.

Speaking informally to the media during the winter session of the state legislative assembly at Nagpur, Fadnavis said that the government is considering the “Madhya Pradesh pattern” of drought-proofing, which has been successful because of decentralised water conservation measures, such as check dams, farm ponds and other micro-watershed measures.

“Despite a drought-prone landscape similar to Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh has registered an impressive agricultural growth rate of 18, 24 and 15 per cent in the last three years, and its irrigated area has gone up from 400,000 hectares (ha) to 2.4 million ha,” added the chief minister. According to him, the growth in Madhya Pradesh has not been achieved through big dams, which are majorly a dominant water-management tool in Maharashtra, but through small scale water conservation measures.

In Maharashtra, in the past few years, government expenditure on drought relief has been to the tune of Rs 8,000 crore. However, only Rs 1,000 crore of this sum has been spent on basic infrastructure of drought-proofing. Fadnavis further added that financial relief for drought-hit areas has limited benefits and becomes an enormous burden on the state exchequer. With this in view, the state government will now prepare a policy for permanent drought-proofing.

Addressing a question on large-scale irregularities in watershed and small-scale conservation work in the state,  Fadnavis said that digital mapping will be used to enable tracking and monitoring of the work and remote sensing technology will be used to rule out irregularities. The evaluation of watershed work, he said, will not be done on the basis of funds spent (as is the practice now), but on the basis of irrigation potential generated.

Tenders worth Rs 1,000 crore cancelled?

Meanwhile, Down To Earth has learnt from sources in the state Water Resources Department that tenders worth Rs 1,000 crore on various irrigation projects, which had been drawn up by the previous government just before the elections but not yet been cleared, have been cancelled by the new government early this month. This is being seen as a follow-up on the chief minister’s earlier announcement that irrigation- related decisions taken by the earlier government are likely to be cancelled.

Most of the tenders that have been cancelled pertain to Vidarbha and Konkan region, including the gargantuan Gosekhurd project which is yet to be completed, despite a lapse of 26 years. Tenders worth Rs 50 crore on the Lower Painganga project have also been cancelled, said sources.

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