The Gosikhurd National Irrigation Project in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra will be delayed by four years due to financial constraints. The annual allocation for the project for 2020-21 made by the state government is just Rs 500 crore against a requirement of Rs 1,500 crore. Another hurdle in the way is the 50 per cent shortage of employees deployed for project work. As a result, the deadline for completion of the project has been revised from 2021 to 2024.
The delay will deprive 30 lakh farmers to avail the dam water, which has the potential to irrigate 2.5 lakh hectares of farmland. The main crops in the region include paddy, soybean, cotton and tur.
The Gosikhurd dam on Wainganga river in Pauni taluka of Bhandara district is being executed by the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) under the water resources department.
The irrigation department’s request for higher allocation of funds for the project has not been accepted. In the two-day monsoon session, supplementary demands failed to accommodate the financial demand for the project.
The reason cited by the government is it had to make higher allocations for Covid-19. All long-pending mega irrigation projects requiring higher allocation have been put on hold for a year.
Gosikhurd project Chief Engineer J M Sheikh told The Indian Express, “At present, we require Rs 5,500-6,000 crore to complete the project. Which means, we require an annual allocation of Rs 1,500 crore for next four years. Unfortunately, this year we got Rs 500 crore. The financial constraint is due to the pandemic, which has adversely hit the state financially.”
According to Sheikh, “Almost all major works on the project is done. The distribution network, which will channel the dam water to farmers’ fields, is pending… The total irrigation potential of the project is 2.5 lakh hectares.”
When the project becomes fully operational it will irrigate 89,856 hectares in Bhandara district, 19,481 hectares in Nagpur district and 1,41,463 hectares in Chandrapur district.
Since its inauguration in 1984 by late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the project has been mired in controversies over corruption and substandard work. There were issues related to rehabilitation of 93 villages, which is attributed to the unprecedented delay of 36 years. In 2009, the project was given national status.
Originally, the project cost was Rs 372 crore. It increased to Rs 5,659 crore in 2007. The Central Water Commission then approved revised cost of Rs 7,778 crore. The cost increased to Rs 13,739 crore in March 2012. The last increase was in September 2016 to Rs 18,495 crore. After three decades and four revisions, the total project cost sanctioned is Rs 18,495 crore.
Project components include construction of dam, canal network including right bank stretching 99 km and left bank 22.93 km. There are four lift irrigation schemes Nerla, Tekepar, Mokharbardi and Ambora. And renovation of Asolemendha tank.
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