Irrigation department to make presentation on projects today
Over a month after the controversy involving irrigation projects in the state first arose, the state irrigation department is expected to mount its defence before the state cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Sources confirmed that water resources minister Sunil Tatkare, and Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar are scheduled to make the much-awaited “presentation” on irrigation before the state cabinet. The presentation is listed as an official item in the cabinet agenda, sources said.
The controversy first erupted after chief minister Prithviraj Chavan sought a “white paper” on irrigation while addressing a symposium in the first week of May.
Raising fingers at the expenditure incurred in irrigation projects in the last 10 years, Chavan had questioned the meager increase in cropped irrigated area. Considering this as a political attack, the NCP, which controls the irrigation department, had hit back and questioned the very figures cited by Chavan. Leaders from both the Congress and the NCP got involved in a game of bickering. At a cabinet meeting last month, it was decided to let the irrigation department submit a “presentation”.
According to sources, the department has justified project costs and escalations. Refuting charges that it had spent Rs 70,000 crore over projects in 10 years, the department has said the amount spent on projects in the last decade was about Rs 42,000. A sizeable portion of this was spent on land acquisition, rehabilitation of project affected and administrative expenses. The department has also refuted claims of meager increase in cropped irrigated areas.
Chavan has indicated that he would focus on completion of “last mile projects”. The last mile projects are seen as those where 75% of the work is completed.
Meanwhile, indicating that the focus of the irrigation sector was set to change from the big cost exhaustive dam projects to drip and sprinkler irrigation methods, the state cabinet will also discuss a proposal for approval to a new micro irrigation scheme at the state and district level. The new scheme will be applicable in cases where the cropped irrigated area is above 0.2 hectares.