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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Centre pulls up Gujarat over ‘inordinate delay’ in river pollution works

The projects were sanctioned for the Sabarmati and Tapi as part of the National River Conservation Plan, under which the Central government provides funds for checking pollution in rivers outside the Ganga basin.

Written by Harikishan Sharma | New Delhi | Updated: August 20, 2020 10:58:56 am
Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Shekhawat tests positive, gajendra shekhawat news, gajendra shekhawat covid results, coronavirus news, india news, indian expressThe minister held two important meetings on Tuesday. One was on the Sutlej Yamuna Link (SYL).

Highlighting the “inordinate delay” in completion of projects to control pollution in two rivers in Gujarat, the Union Jal Shakti Ministry has pulled up the Vijay Rupani government.

While the project on the Sabarmati river is “yet to be completed” six years after funds were sanctioned in 2014, there has been “practically no progress on the ground till date” in the Tapi project nearly 16 months after Central funds were released, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat pointed out in a letter to the CM dated August 4.

The projects were sanctioned for the Sabarmati and Tapi as part of the National River Conservation Plan, under which the Central government provides funds for checking pollution in rivers outside the Ganga basin.

The pollution abatement project on the Sabarmati river is in phase 2, and was sanctioned Rs 444 crore in 2014. Pointing this out, Shekhawat wrote, “My Ministry had to extend the completion date of the project… from September 2018 to March 2020, and now again to March 2021… Such an inordinate delay in completion and commissioning of the project is depriving the state of its intended benefits.”

Sources in the ministry said that for the Tapi river, the Centre had sanctioned Rs 971.25 crore, releasing the first Rs 13 crore in March 2019. Under the project — to be funded by the Centre and state in a 60: 40 ratio — 37 sewage treatment plants with a total capacity of 250 million litres per day are to be built.

The first instalment was meant to be transferred to the Surat Municipal Corporation, sources said. According to Shekhawat’s letter, “I am given to understand that only part of the Central funds amounting to Rs 8 crore were transferred by the state government to Surat Municipal Corporation in November 2019, after a delay of nearly eight months. The balance Rs 5 crore of Central funds are still to be released by the state government…even though 16 months have elapsed.”

“In addition, there has been practically no progress on ground till date,” his letter stated.

The minister pointed out that even tenders for a majority of these works had not been issued as land had not been made available for the STPs.

“You would agree that (a) project of this size and magnitude requires close monitoring and steady pace of progress, along with cash flow, to obviate time and cost overruns,” he wrote.

This is not the first time the ministry has criticised the Gujarat government over the progress of works. Earlier, the Jal Jeevan Mission had questioned the state’s planning of tap water connections for the current financial year, saying this showed its “apathy towards weaker sections”. At a meeting on June 8 with senior state officials, the Mission authorities had asked Gujarat to review its proposal to cover only 5.84% of the 10.62 lakh SC/ST households in the state without tap water connections in the current year.

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