In yet another case of how public money has been frittered away on irrigation projects to benefit a few, it has now been revealed that the cost of 11 barrages in Marathwada region was inflated 20 to 100 times denting the state exchequer by Rs 2,000 crore.
The Godavari Irrigation Development Corporation (GIDC) was to build 11 Kolhapur Type (KT) weirs in four districts of Parbhani, Jalna, Aurangabad and Nanded estimated to cost around Rs 200 crore. Administrative approvals for this were given in 2006.
A KT weir is a barrier on the flow of water, with gates that are opened during the monsoon to release water from the dam into the river for storage. This water can then be pumped through lift irrigation schemes into fields.
GIDC, midway, decided to upgrade the projects without getting clearance from the central water commission, along the dry Godavari river basin, where increase in storage was not feasible. The change in designs led to cost hikes in these 11 projects to around Rs 2,000 crore.
But, even with the change in design, there was no increase in the storage capacity.
BJP’s former MLA from Aurangabad, Babanrao Lonikar, who smelt a scam and had filed a public interest litigation in the Aurangabad bench of the high court in March, told HT, “The state water resources policy states that for creating storage of 1 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic feet), approximately Rs3 crore can be spent. In this case, to increase storage by ½%, more than Rs200 crore has been spent on each of the 11 projects.”
“In this, nearly Rs400 crore worth of contracts have gone to an NCP legislator and contractor. There has been no benefit to farmers or locals. The dams have been built on the dry river basin, which does not flood even in the monsoon,” he said.
The state’s former water resources minister Ajit Pawar in 2008 had assured the assembly of a probe in this scam. The state government had then asked former water resources secretary MK Kulkarni to probe this scam, but the report submitted last year has not yet seen the light of day.
Lonikar filed a police complaint in Aurangabad against senior irrigation and state officials including the chief secretary a fortnight back under criminal breach of trust by public servant under sections 406 and 409 of IPC.
“The KT weirs are meant to be small irrigation projects to store water. Here, they were scaled up without any thought given to cost-benefit ratio. It smacks of corruption,” said whistleblower chief engineer Vijay Pandhare.