The Maharashtra government, on Tuesday, decided to give a revised administrative approval (RAA) to Shelgaon barrage medium irrigation project that comes under Jalgaon district, hometown of water resources minister Girish Mahajan.
With the move, the cost of the project has been increased to Rs 699 crore, around 253% more than its original cost (Rs 198.05 crore) when it was launched in 1999.
The state cabinet led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis approved the cost escalations but ignored the fact that the 55% of the project has been completed without an RAA, which is considered as an irregularity. In case of major cost escalations, RAA becomes absolutely necessary.
Until June this year, the water resources department had already spent Rs 307.54 crore on the project, while the cabinet approved the RAA only on Tuesday, sources in the government said.
The cost of the project was increased due to change in design, escalation in the cost of cement and iron and increase in the area for land acquisition, clarified a senior official from the water resources department. He also said that the expenditure priority committee (EPC) headed by the then finance minister, had cleared the proposal for cost escalation back in January 2014.
Sources further revealed that the finance department had also objected to the RAA for change in design and increasing the scope of the project, resulting in major cost escalation.
With the project, the government is expecting to bring 9,128 hectares of land under irrigation that will benefit villages located at Jalgaon MIDC. The project will also help in ending the water crisis faced by Bhusawal municipal council.