The state government’s water management policy has recommended strict monitoring of 32,000 KT Weirs to optimise the storage of dam water, which could be used for kharif and rabi crops in districts across Maharashtra.
The Kolhapuri Type Weirs (KT Weirs) and bridge-cum-barrages built across dams and rivers are used to regulate the water flow and storage, which is significant for tackling drought.
The decision to explore various methods to optimise water storage and management comes in the backdrop of the government’s plan to make 28,000 of the state’s 40,000 villages drought-free.
“The KT Weirs, which were constructed in large numbers, have remained in a complete state of neglect for 15 years. There has never been an initiative to make investments for its maintenance. The KT Weirs are critical for water storage in dams, which could be utilised during the dry spell in summers to fight drought,” said an official in the water resources department.
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At present, there are 32,000 KT Weirs worth Rs 10,000 crore built over dams across Maharashtra. Every KT Weir has multiple gates, depending on its width. The gates are opened during monsoons to avoid overflooding but closed during the withdrawal of monsoons to hold the water in the dams.
“In almost 70 per cent KT Weirs, the gates are either missing or badly maintained. As a result, it does not serve the purpose of water storage,” said a source.
In the absence of manpower, there is no monitoring of these projects.
An audit report also shows that successive governments for the last 15 years have never paid much attention on determining the time-table of opening and closing of the KT Weir gates, thus, defeating the objective for which it was constructed.
The KT Weir model of water storage and management, which is a success story if maintained properly, is being studied by several other states.
A team of 10 water management experts from Telangana had visited Maharashtra a couple of months ago to study the model.
The team wants to replicate it as an economical and sustainable water management model. The Union Ministry of Water Resources too has certified it as one of the best models.
“The ministry of revenue, ministry of water resources, ministry of finance and ministry of water conservation along with district collectors have to determine the KT Weirs gates closure. Meetings at regular intervals beginning July-end will ensure that as the monsoon recedes, the gates should be closed by early September,” said an official. But a lot would depend on the Indian Meteorological Department’s monsoon forecast.
Sources also said that in the absence of allocated budget for maintenance of KT Weirs, often there is complacency in replacing the gates, which are often missing due to theft or weather-beating.
The state allocates Rs 8,000 crore to the water resources department, which is often used for construction of new irrigation projects. But with vast irrigation projects already in existence, there is no funds dedicated for its maintenance, said an official.