Prithviraj Chavan goes hot on irrigation fund trail

Orders compilation of data on projects undertaken and funds spent in 10 years.

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Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has directed the Ministry of Water Resources officials to compile a list of the irrigation projects undertaken and funds invested in the last 10 years in Maharashtra.

"Chavan is determined to bring out the white paper to ensure that the central funds for irrigation projects are not blocked because of administrative lapses," said sources in the Mantrayala.

The Centre has sought a report card on the state's irrigation projects before allocating financial package under Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programmes. It has constituted a three-member committee to look into the state’s requirement.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which has had the irrigation portfolio since 1999, is reluctant to put on paper the delay in carrying out the irrigation projects. The delay has escalated the cost of project and 15 districts of Maharashtra have been drought-hit.

"The question that the government needs to answer is why after spending Rs70,000 crore in irrigation projects the number of drought-hit talukas has increased from 80 to 166 between the same period," said a former member of the state planning board.

According to the ministry of irrigation, the biggest irrigation project in Vidarbha is incomplete even after 28 years. The project cost has risen from Rs370crore to Rs7,770crore.

The government has invested Rs6,050 crore, partly state and Centre-funded. The PMO has taken a serious note of the project's delay because of which the central funds have been withheld. A high-power committee which probed the project reported that the state government has failed to rehabilitate 16,000 families in Bhandara, Nagpur and Chandrapur villages.

Last week, the chief minister led a delegation to prime minister Manmohan Singh to ask for funds for the drought-hit state. During the meeting, Union minister for heavy industries Praful Patel urged Singh to provide funds to the Gosikhurd project, which has been declared a national irrigation project. The minister said that once the project is completed, it would help irrigate 2.5 lakh hectares of land.

A review of the Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation revealed that almost 90 projects were transferred to KIDC for completion between 1998 and 2010. However, only 13 projects were completed and total investment made was Rs2,573 crore. 

"It is complete mismanagement. The cost overrun is mindboggling," said Devendra Fadnavis, BJP MLA.

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