To cap growing cost escalation and stop the delay in completing 420 irrigation projects across the state, the government’s biggest challenge could be to raise Rs 61,471.16 crore in a time-bound manner, sources said.
So far, the total amount spent by the state on incomplete projects is Rs 49,804.64 crore. The list includes 57 irrigation projects, which started more than 30 years ago and are still incomplete. There are 81 projects that are lying unfinished for more than 20 years, 69 projects are over 15 years old, 51 projects started 10 years and 11 are incomplete for five years. Currently, the revised cost of all the projects is Rs 1,11,275.64 crore.
For 339 projects, the cost overrun was more than five times, amounting to Rs 67,931.87 crore, from its original cost of Rs 12376.01 crore.
A source in the Ministry of Water Resources told The Indian Express: “Apart from Centre-state budget allocations, the finance ministry is working on raising the funds through market bonds and debentures.”
The source added: “In the last two budgets, we received Rs 16,000 crore for irrigation projects. An average annual budget of Rs 8,000 would provide us Rs 40,000 crore between 2014-15 and 2019-20. The funds allocated through NABARD and Central assistance at this moment is Rs 16,600 crore. Which makes the total Rs 56,600 crore.”
Apart from this, the state government has sent a proposal to the Union finance ministry seeking Rs 10,700 crore assistance for irrigation projects in 14 drought prone districts where the number of farmer suicides are maximum. Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati has taken the state proposal to the Centre arguing it should be considered in the wake of drought in 14 distressed districts of Maharashtra.
Indicating that there has been a paradigm shift in irrigation policy after the Devendra Fadnavis government took charge in 2014, a senior officer said: “ We have put a ban on new projects. During the previous government, every year before the budget, new projects driven by political considerations and pressure from local elected members would be sanctioned. This lead to thin spreading of available resources and violation of guidelines that lead to incomplete work and major cost overrun.”
An official note from the water resources department said that 77 projects had been completed in the past two-and-a-half years and the next target is to complete 75 ongoing projects by 2017-18.
Sources said priority had been given to 225 projects and considering geographical and agricultural requirements of the areas to enhance the irrigation potential, the time line is five years.
However, projects that are in the initial stages or where less than 10 per cent work has been done, would not be included in the list of 75 projects. According to the department note, apart from the financial tie-up, administrative reforms included reallocation of work force in regions like Vidarbha and Marathwada.