THE GOSIKHURD National Irrigation Project will require around two more years to maximise its irrigation potential of 2.47 lakh hectares in Bhandara, Nagpur and Chandrapur districts of the Vidarbha region, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Friday.
“The completion of the project, likely to be in 2019-20, is of highest priority for the state government. If we reflect on the progress made in the last four years, it is very satisfactory. The irrigation potential in Gosikhurd has increased from 8,449 lakh hectares in 2013-14 to 47,557 lakh hectares in 2017-18,” the CM said.
“The project, when it becomes fully operational, will maximise the irrigation potential to 2.47 lakh hectares. Several lakh farmers in Vidarbha will reap huge benefits,” he added. The project will cater to 1,43,106 hectares in Chandrapur, 22,997 hectares in Nagpur and 81,697 hectares in Bhandara.
The delay in the project, which was sanctioned in 1984 by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, has been attributed to the decision of the state water resources department to take action against corrupt officials in the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation following complaints of shoddy work and irregularities. The corruption cases had came to light during the Congress-NCP regime between 2004 and 2010.
While the Centre is financing 90 per cent of the project, the state is paying the rest. The project, initially estimated to cost Rs 384 crore, has increased to Rs 18,472 crore in these 34 years. In the last four years, the Centre has provided Rs 3,680 crore for the project, and the state has urged it to provide more funds, officials said.
Officials in the water resources department said that besides pending civil works, issues regarding rehabilitation of the affected villages — where the project is coming up — are also delaying the project. “The state has allocated Rs 252 crore for the same and work is under progress. There are 16,000 families in 93 affected villages in these three districts. Over 90 per cent work related to rehabilitation has been completed,” said an official.