At least two ambitious projects announced for Marathwada— one, of diverting 23 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) of water from Krishna basin to Marathwada and the second, making the region water sufficient - may only stay on paper with experts as well as officials claiming that these promises were too difficult to deliver.
The plan of diverting 23 TMC water from Krishna basin to the drought-prone districts of Marathwada has been unrealised for years, while the water grid announced for the area is said to be too ambitious. In the backdrop of the repeated water scarcity in the region, the government had planned to tap various water sources available and distribute it for the purpose of drinking, agriculture and industry through proper audit.
The Devendra Fadnavis government on Tuesday had announced a package of Rs49,248 crore for eight districts of Marathwada region in a special cabinet meet in Aurangabad, after a gap of eight years. The government was expected to spend around Rs1,200 crore a year on Krishna-Marathwada scheme, which has three water lifting schemes under implementation. Villages in Beed and Osmanabad districts were expected to get 7 TMC water under the Krishna-Marathwada scheme from Ujjani dam. Of the 23 TMC water agreed to be allocated to Marathwada from Krishna basin, the dispute on the remaning 16 TMC was pending before the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal.
“The government has already spent about Rs500 crore on the project, but has failed to divert a single drop to the region. The remaining share of 16 TMC is subject to the ruling of the tribunal hearing the case. I think we are spending too much for the project to fetch water from a long distance,” said Pradeep Purandare, former professor at Water and Land Management Institute and an irrigation expert.
Besides the special package, the state also announced a water grid worth Rs13,000 for channelised distribution of the water. The project called as ‘Marathwada Water Grid’ was to provide a sustainable and permanent solution to the drinking water woes through tapped water supply to all households. It means the entire water supply system will be connected through closed pipe lines instead of the current open water canal system. The cabinet also approved long-pending irrigation projects worth Rs9,291 crore.
A retired official from the water conservation department of Aurangabad division raised doubts over the feasibility of water grid. “The water grid project is based on the similar implementation in Gujarat and Telangana. But it could not be feasible here. We need to tap smaller resources at local level than implementing such grids by spending a huge amount. The maintenance of the scheme and the huge expenditure on its implementation may make the grid infeasible,” he said The officer said the land acquisition and the fund constraints will also pose challenges in implementing these projects.
Agriculture expert and former member of state planning board HM Desarada said that the government now needs to bring a paradigm shift in its approach. “The pending irrigation projects reapproved by the government have been beneficial only to the contractors and corrupt officials as well as politicians in the past. The government should instead push for smaller watershed management initiatives rather than going for water grid, which is cost intensive,” he said.
Umakant Dangt, divisional commissioner, Aurangabad siad, “It is true that the irrigation projects are delayed, but after the cabinet push these will be on the track. I don’t think there would be resistance for the diversion of water from Krishna basin as it is Marathwada’s rightful share and the permission for drawing water has been given long back.”