The Maharashtra government has decided to fast-track 98 ongoing irrigation projects in six of the suicide-prone districts in Vidarbha region. The list of project includes the controversial Gosikhurd National Irrigation Project.
To begin with, the Ministry of Water Resources has decided to relocate its nodal irrigation management centres based in Sangli and Pune in Western Maharashtra to Bhandara and Yavatmal in Vidarbha. The administrative decision is to provide additional manpower for effective management and work in the region.
Sources in the water resources department said, “Our nodal management offices under Krishna Koyna Irrigation Development Corporation in Sangli and Pune don’t have much work going on in their regions. So, the relocation of offices to Vidarbha is to address the problems of shortage of manpower for management in the ongoing projects.”
For the last 15 years, irrigation work in Vidarbha has been sluggish because of lack of funds and employees. Citing an example, a senior officer said, “During the Congress-NCP regime, projects and funds were sanctioned for irrigation projects in Amravati division. But no officers and engineers required for executing the work was not provided. As a result, there was no work progress.”
Elaborating on the issue, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “If Vidarbha has to become a zero suicide zone, we have to strengthen our irrigation network there so that we can cover small and medium-scale farmers.”
He added that almost 78 per cent of the farmers with small land holding were the real concern as they could not be left to the mercy of the erratic rains. “We have taken the issue of the Gosikhurd project with the Centre. Here we have water but there is a lack of infrastructure,” said Fadnavis.
So far, Rs 8,000 crore have been invested in the project and an equal amount is needed for its completion.
In the six drought-prone districts of Vidarbha, there are altogether 98 ongoing irrigation projects. The total cost of it all comes to Rs 4,098 crore, with 1,40,611 hectares of land under it.
A districtwise tally shows Amravati has 26 projects, which would require funds worth Rs 1,377 crore and create irrigation potential on 39,152 hectares of land. In Akola, there are 12 projects worth Rs 718 crore with irrigation potential of 2265 hectares. At Washim, there are 29 projects estimated at Rs 248 crore with irrigation potential of 20321 hectares of land. At Yavatmal, there are 16 projects worth Rs 687 crore which would create 21927 hectares of land irrigation-worthy. Buldhana, meanwhile, has 10 ongoing projects worth Rs 290 crore and would cover 13327 hectares of land under irrigation. Whereas, Wardha with five projects costing Rs 776 crore will bring 22919 hectares of land under irrigation.