Land acquisition conflicts, shortage of funds, rehabilitation woes and cost escalations are some of the problems identified by the auditor
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India’s report on Maharashtra (economic sector) has showcased problems that continue to plague irrigation projects, including those slated to receive central government grants under water ministry’s accelerated irrigation benefit programme (AIBP) in the state.
The audit, conducted from May to September 2017 with additional information obtained in November 2018, covers the period 2013-18. During the period under review, 29 irrigation projects received AIBP funds. Of these CAG examined 18 projects, after selecting them on random sampling basis.
Total expenditure on these projects was Rs 11,575.57 crore up to March 2018, the audit pointed out.
While this has already led to cost overrun amounting to a whopping Rs 7,486.50 crore, the balance cost of the projects at the time of their inclusion under AIBP was Rs 4,089.07 crore.
The issues plaguing irrigation projects in Maharashtra are:
Out of the 18 irrigation projects, only two are complete, whereas the remaining are still under the status ‘ongoing’, the report showed.
Gul project (Jalgaon district)
Of the 3,205 hectares of land with irrigation potential, only 350 hectares were actually utilised under the Gul project in Jalgaon district, the report found.
Such significant under-utilisation was “due to non-execution of on-farm development works (ie, command area development and water management) and diversion of water (64 per cent) for non-irrigation purpose for Chopda Municipal Council, the auditors observed.
Of the two completed projects, only the irrigation potential created at Warna project (12,247 hectares)
in Sangli district was utilised fully.
Warna irrigation project
Warna medium irrigation project is a typical example of how delays in granting RAA makes irrigation projects in Maharashtra languish for three to four decades.
The Warna irrigation project got administrative approval first in January 1967 for the cost Rs 31.64 crore. Since then the cost estimates have been revised many a times and in July 1986 an updated cost assessment had put the revised cost at Rs 288.47 crore.
Despite spending Rs 288.32 crore up to March 2005, the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corp (MKVDC) couldn’t take the project to finish line. Thus, it got included under AIBP since 2005-’06. After seven years and a total expenditure amounting to Rs 519.81 crore till March 31, 2012, it still could not achieve the last mile connectivity.
As cited in the CAG audit, MKVDC had moved a proposal in January 2011 to Maharashtra government seeking a RAA for the latest cost revision for Rs 2,149.95 crore. However, it finally accorded the RAA after a considerable delay, in October 2016, for Rs 1,174.98 crore.
While CAG auditors have not scrutinised deeper into what caused such delay, it observed: “As a result, no fund was provided to the project between April 2012 and March 2016, the work was not completed and hence project was delayed”.
The auditors also remarked that “the work of canal was deferred and the command area of the project was irrigated through lifts from the river”, as a result of this delay.
Sangola branch canal project
Similar was the story of the Sangola branch canal project, which was first granted administrative approval in September 1977 for Rs 0.46 crore.
Since then the costs estimates kept getting revised upwards and according to December 2003 estimates, the project was to cost the state government Rs 288.01 crore. The total expenditure up to March 2007 was lagging behind at Rs 76.41 crore, the auditors reported.
Thus, this project also got listed for central funds under AIBP from 2007-’08. It registered a total expenditure of Rs 276.73 crore till March 31, 2012.
As cited in the CAG audit report, MKVDC sought the RAA for the latest cost estimate for Rs 937.92 crore in December 2014. The approval was finally granted after 22 months in October 2016.
“Due to the delay, no fund was provided to the project from 2014 to 2016,” the CAG stated.
A view of incomplete dam in Maharashtra. Photo: CAG
A lame duck reply from audited entity
“The delay in granting RAA to projects was due to the necessity of obtaining approval of state level technical advisory committee (SLTAC) as per the revised guidelines,” said Maharashtra’s water resources department on February 2018, in reply to CAG’s observation.
However, such a reply raises question as to how frequently does the SLTAC in Maharashtra meet? Does SLTAC also look into structural safety aspects in relation to irrigation dams in Maharashtra and approve the dam safety related expenditure on time by rigorously examining the pre-monsoon and post-monsoon inspection reports?
Of the 18 projects, “R&R was completed in just three projects — Warna, Tillari and Sangolo Branch Canal — while two projects — Tarali and Aruna — it was almost completed,” according to the audit.
“In respect of Krishna Koyna Lift Irrigation Scheme, the R&R was not required, while in the respect of Aruna dam, the work is yet to start,” it observed.
The audit pointed that R&R was incomplete in the case of Wang medium irrigation project (Satara district) and Dhom-Balkawadi project (Satara district).
In the case of Wang medium irrigation project, the CAG said: “Out of 1,922 affected families from nine villages, land has been distributed fully to 832 families, partly to 208 families. Land to 882 families is yet to be distributed as project affected persons are unwilling to move to new location.”
Further, eight civic amenities were not yet provided in 15 new villages, where affected persons were shifted despite a lapse of five years since project was to be completed in 2011, the audit pointed out.
In the case of Dhom-Balkawadi project, the audit observed that two additional amenities — village panchayat bhavan and bus stop — were not yet provided in the new village when affected persons were relocated.
The Maharashtra government “delayed request for recovery of Rs 90.08 crore towards construction and operation cost from Goa government since 2013-14”, the CAG observed, after examining the recovery of outstanding dues from government of Goa towards its contribution into the Tillari inter-state irrigation project according to the agreement between the states.
Similarly, the CAG auditors also underlined that “the Jalgaon municipal corporation owed Rs 757.85 crore to the Tapi irrigation development corporation towards cost involved in increasing height of Waghur dam for proving drinking water to JMC”.
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