By Sanjay Jog
Construction in the inter-state Lower Penganga irrigation project between Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh is yet to begin, as Andhra Pradesh hasn’t received the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF)’s nod yet. Maharashtra had received the environment clearance in May 2007.
As reported by Business Standard, the Lower Penganga project was mired in controversy after a multi-crore irrigation scam in Maharashtra came to the fore. MoEF’s expert appraisal committee (EAC) has asked the Andhra government to carry out a baseline environmental monitoring for the pre-monsoon, monsoon and post-monsoon seasons in a year. It has also asked the state to intro duce pressurised and water-saving irrigation methods in at least 10 per cent of the command area on five well-distributed locations (500 hectares each), at project cost.
The cost of the project, proposed in July 1982, soared from Rs 1,042 crore to a record Rs 10,429.39 crore in 2008-09. The Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) had granted administrative approval to the project only in August 2009. Villagers opposing the project estimate the cost would rise to Rs 13,000 crore, given the delays and inflation.
VIDC admitted cost revision was inevitable due to various factors.
The EAC has asked the Andhra Pradesh government to monitor meteorology, ambient air and noise quality and socio-economic conditions, carry out detailed geological mapping of the dam site and identify existing coalfields in the irrigation area. The committee, which discussed the state government’s proposal at its meeting on December 26 and 27 (the minutes of which were released last week), also sought an appropriate land development plan. This, it said, should be incorporated in the environment impact assessment and environment management plan reports.
The committee also asked the state government to obtain a no objection certificate from Maharashtra’s principal chief conservator of forests, as the Tippeshwar wildlife sanctuary was only two km away from the intake canal.
A Maharashtra water resources official confirmed these EAC directives to Andhra Pradesh. He told Business Standard, the ball was in the expert committee’s court.
A VIDC official said the project cost had risen following a 67 per cent rise in project works, a nine per cent rise due to change in scope and a two per cent increase due to change in design. Also, land acquisition and rehabilitation costs rose 16 per cent, while establishment costs had increased six per cent.
Villagers have filed a petition against the project at the Nagpur bench of the High court, urging the project be scrapped.
Instead of opting for such mega project that affected villagers, the government should consider smaller and more viable projects, they said.