Almost 50 per cent of the work in the Gosikhurd National Irrigation Project remains incomplete. This is depriving lakhs of farmers in the Vidarbha region of irrigation potential worth 2.5 lakh hectares. Though there is water in abundance now, the failure of the administration to complete work on canals and lift irrigation projects, and also the rehabilitation of villagers has marred the Gosikhurd project languishing for the last 32 years.
Highly placed sources in the Ministry of Water Resources said the total project cost had gone up to Rs 18,500 crore, of which Rs 9,000 crore work remained to be completed. Of the total 2.5 lakh hectares of irrigation potential, they said, 49,000 hectares had been brought under irrigation.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has directed officials of the department to complete the entire project by 2018. He has also urged the Centre to release the funds to expedite the mega project. Since it is a national project, sources said, the Centre’s share was up to 90 per cent and state’s 10 per cent.
Officials in the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), which is the nodal umbrella for the project’s execution, discovered that the charges of corruption and poor work, as raised by the Nandkumar Vadnere and Mendigiri committee in 2006-07 and 2009-10, were a setback to the work.
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The corruption cases came to light during the Congress-NCP regime between 2004 and 2010.
In the last two years, after taking charge as the CM of Maharashtra, Fadnavis had said Gosikhurd project would be taken to its “logical end”. Apart from ordering the probe leading to action against 40 officials and engineers in the VIDC, the state government re-issued the tender after scrapping the old contracts due to irregularities.
At a meeting held last week, Fadnavis gave a warning to officials to complete the rehabilitation of project-affected villages. Of the total 93 villages, of which 35 were submerged due to the project, rehabilitation package was awarded in almost all cases. But there are eight villages where basic amenities arising out of relocation and related aspects are yet to be resolved.To facilitate a quick solution, the state government had ordered a one-time compensation up to five times in the project.
Officials in the water resources department said of the four lift irrigation projects, work in three was going on in different phases.
They said the repairs and restructuring of the right and left bank canals were also under way. Indicating that work on the dam was completed and that water was available in plenty, the sources said the incomplete canals and right and left banks had led to problems of channelising the water flow from dams to the agriculture fields in villages.
The inter-district project criss crosses through Bhandara, Nagpur and Chandrapur districts of Vidarbha. The completion of the project would create the highest irrigation potential, bringing 2.5 lakh hectare of land under irrigation. It would help several lakh farmers in the region where the main crops include cotton, soyabean, paddy and tur cereals.
Officials said Gosikhurd was among the 26 major irrigation projects listed under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchan Yojana (PMKSY). The Centre last month sanctioned Rs 12,773 crore loan from NABARD at the low interest rate of six per cent, they said.
The Centre has also sanctioned Rs 3,680 crore towards the projects. According to a senior officer, VIDC, “The total project-hit families across 93 villages in three districts worked to 16,000. In Nagpur 8,312; Chyandrapur 1,542 and Bhandara 6,000.” In the last three decades, the administration had already given compensation to almost 80 per cent of the project-affected. They indicated that only eight villages remain to be rehabilitated.
The state government had set aside Rs 252 crore for the rehabilitation work. To expedite the work, it promoted the direct negotiation of land and compensation almost five times more to resolve the pending problems.
The Gosikhurd project on river Wainganaga was inaugurated by late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1984. The project included a dam, vast network of canals such as right bank stretching 99 km, left bank 22.93 km, four lift irrigation schemes-Mokhabardi, Nerla, Tekepar and Ambhora, and renovation of the Asolamendha tank.
In 1984, the project cost estimated was Rs 372 crore. In 2008, it saw unprecedented cost escalation from Rs 372 crore to Rs 7,777.85 crore. In the subsequent years, two committees pointed out massive irregularities in issuing of tenders, poor quality work and shoddy rehabilitation of project-affected villagers.
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