The state government is evolving a mechanism to fast-track irrigation projects where 75 per cent works have been completed, to channel the benefits in drought-hit districts of Maharashtra. The budget 2016-17 is likely to emphasise the urgency of addressing problems related to completion of irrigation projects languishing for last two decades because of administrative delays and lack of funds.
In its last budget, the state government had earmarked Rs 7,272 crore for completion of 38 irrigation projects within a year. However, sources in the irrigation department revealed that work was still in progress.
Administrative hitches, coupled with some relief and rehabilitation issues, often marred the progress of several projects taken up on highest priority.
Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan had undertaken mid-term corrective measures to decentralise decision making and give executive officials, zone wise, the powers to take decisions. Yet, the overall results indicate there is a mismatch between target set and works completed.
During the last budget, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar had said, “An outlay of Rs 7,272 crore is proposed for Water Resources Department in the year 2015-16 and 38 irrigation projects are planned to be completed this year. As a result, 700 million cubic litre water storage will be created and 69,000 hectare land brought under irrigation.”
At the internal core committee meeting to evolve the budget 2016-17, Fadnavis reminded that they should ensure that all irrigation projects are completed in a time-bound manner to avoid further cost escalation. He has repeatedly stressed urgency in completing irrigation projects, where work is 75 per cent complete, so that the 25 per cent remaining works are taken up on highest priority.
In the coming budget, the government is likely to emphasise on end results rather than sanctioning of new irrigation projects.
Sources said the total funds required to complete all small, medium and big irrigation projects, which had already been sanctioned in the last 15 years and were in various stages, would require almost Rs 1.25 lakh crores. For all those projects where 75 per cent work is completed, approximately Rs 10,000 crore will be required.
In the last budget, the finance and water resources department had together worked out a chart giving a nod for 38 irrigation projects.
The budget for water resources department is unlikely to exceed Rs 10,000 crore this time. This means the water resources ministry will have to redraw its priority project wise, along with the geographical and agricultural requirements. The government has also indicated that they would not allow any big dam projects for the next four years.
A senior official said the emphasis on water conservation instead of construction of medium and big irrigation projects, under the Jalyukta Shivar Abhiyan, had paved the way for tackling drought in 25,000 villages across the state.