The state government has given the nod to the revised cost estimates for 173 irrigation projects worth Rs 40,000 crore in the last two-and-a-half years. The water resources ministry has urged the finance ministry to exempt these projects from the 25 to 30 per cent cuts enforced across departments in the wake of the Rs 34,000 crore loan waiver to 89 lakh farmers. The decision, which overrides the state’s financial constraints and a debt of Rs 3.5 lakh crore, sends out a message that irrigation projects cannot be put on the back burner as they directly relate to agricultural growth and the concerns of 1.36 crore farmers in the state.
According to a senior official in the ministry of water resources, “The consent for revised cost escalation of 173 projects would bring 16,000 hectares of land under irrigation.” In the same period, the fast-tracking of the irrigation projects which were 75 per cent complete, and pending for more than two decades, have been taken up on priority. The documents provided by the department show that almost 93 irrigation projects have been completed in the last two-and-a-half years. The government has set 2019 as the deadline to complete 225 irrigation projects. In the state, there are 515 irrigation projects worth Rs 1.25 lakh crore to be completed.
In the tenure of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, since October 31, 2014, irrigation proposals were discussed and approved in 35 cabinet meetings. The government has given the department highest priority along with agriculture. The approval, in the last two-and-a-half years, for 25 state irrigation projects by the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) is also slated to be the highest. With a target to enhance the irrigation potential by 7.5 lakh hectares by 2019, the government has identified, area wise, the irrigation works which need to be further expedited. Although the state government has put a ban on taking up new irrigation projects, the focus would continue on completion of ongoing works.
Efforts are under way to urge the Centre to provide higher financial component for the Rs 6,000 crore Tapi River Recharge Irrigation Project. The Centre has given in-principle nod for the project for which the fund sharing would be in the ratio of 50:50. The project spread across three states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh will help bring four lakh hectares under irrigation. The districts which would be benefited include Nashik, Jalgaon, Dhule, Nandurbar, Washim, Buldhana, Akola and Amravati.
Officials in the ministry of finance confirmed, “Despite a cut of 25 to 30 per cent across departments, we will have to exempt some of the sectors including agriculture and irrigation works.”