By Sanjay Jog
Maharashtra’s water resources department has said the state’s irrigation potential has risen 28 per cent in the past decade — from 3.7 million hectares in 2001 to 4.75 million hectares in 2010. During this period, irrigated area in the state increased from 1.75 million hectares to 2.9 million hectares, a record 72 per cent rise.
It is expected the state Cabinet would take up a white paper on irrigation in the state at its meeting slated for tomorrow. If approved, the paper would later be tabled in the legislature for debate in the winter session starting December 10.
The state government is yet to complete the inquiry against 45 officials of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation for alleged irregularities in the implementation of 38 projects.
In May, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had announced the government planned to bring out a white paper on irrigation. This followed the Economic Survey stating though Rs 70,000 crore had been spent on various projects in the past decade, the state’s irrigation potential had risen only 0.1 per cent. However, the Nationalist Congress party, in charge of the state water resources department, argued the rise was much higher.
On condition of anonymity, a senior state government official told Business Standard: “The irrigation ratio has increased 5.17 per cent. This would rise an additional one per cent if one includes the 70,000 cubic metres of water provided for domestic and industry use. In a report in 2001, the Chitale committee had indicated the state would be able to irrigate up to 8.5 million hectares of the 22.6 million hectares under cultivation.” The official denied the rise in irrigation potential was a paltry 0.1 per cent between 2001 and 2010.
The water resources department has denied allegations of irregularities in the implementation of various irrigation projects, primarily in the Vidarbha region. The white paper has listed the reasons for the rise in project costs and time overruns. “Primarily, the rise has been on account of a rise in input costs, delays in land acquisition and forest clearances and the implementation of rehabilitation projects. The department schedule of rate (DSR) in the 38 irrigation projects in Vidarbha and other projects across Maharashtra has been quite low, compared to the DSR of projects implemented in other states and those implemented by state-run Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, Maharashtra Jeevan Pradhikaran, the state public works department and the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation,” the official said.