The state’s water resources department will soon have its separate manual for all projects related to irrigation. The decision comes in the wake of conflicts and challenges faced by the water resources ministry in pursuing the projects under the public works department (PWD) manual. Highly placed sources in the Ministry of Water Resources said operating under the PWD manual was not practical for the department but the issue had remained unaddressed for decades.
Explaining the problems, a senior official said, “The projects taken up by the PWD relates to construction of roads and buildings, whereas the water resources department’s job is to build complex irrigation projects. Irrigation projects have a wide range — from dams, barrages, K T weirs and canals
to cement nullahs, among others.” He added: “In the past, emphasis was on big dams, which worked with the PWD manual. Now, the focus of irrigation projects has shifted from construction to better water management and maintenance. Instead of big dams, we are working on river-linking, bringing water through closed pipes, smaller irrigation works based on scientific studies and soil surveys.” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has given consent for the separate manual. The Ministry of Water Resources is headed by Girish Mahajan, while Chandrakant Patil heads the PWD ministry.
The argument of the water resources department for a separate manual was that the PWD manual confined to roads and building construction and did not work when it came to addressing the complexities of irrigation projects. “Initially, when the state came into existence, PWD was entrusted with irrigation work too. But over the years, it was bifurcated into two separate departments — PWD and water resources. But there were no separate manual,” said an official. Though the two ministries have separate budget provisions, administrative interdependence was causing delay in getting the projects moving.
Several other technical aspects, essential for irrigation projects, could not be addressed in the PWD. A senior PWD official said, “It is always better to adopt a different approach when it comes to pursuing constructions of road/buildings and irrigation projects. The two kinds of projects require different approach and treatment. The guidelines and standards adopted by PWD for roads cannot work in irrigation projects.”