Taking a tough stance against contractor-driven big irrigation projects, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the state should focus more on decentralised and traditional water conservation methods that function through voluntary public participation.
Chavan said the state could not afford to spend every year to mitigate droughts by supplying water tankers and money for cattle shelters. “This is wasteful, consumptive expenditure that creates nothing permanent,” Chavan said a day before the state launches 1,497 cement nullah bunds in drought-hit villages.
Chavan took a dig at ally Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) demand that the state make money available for big and medium irrigation projects. NCP, which is in control of the irrigation department since 1999, has been plagued by graft allegations, cost escalations and nexuses with contractors. “This would need an investment of at least Rs80,000 crore over many years. Also, we don’t know how long these projects would take to be completed,” said the CM.
“On the other hand, in smaller and less expensive decentralised water works, villages participate voluntarily. They supervise the work to ensure quality and avoid any delay. Increasing public participation makes this scheme a grand success.”
However, Chavan conceded big dams and traditional water conservation will have to co-exist. “I have pitched for help from the Centre and we are ready to have budgets for both systems from next year.” He expects the state will receive Rs10,000 crore a year from the Centre, of which Rs3,000 crore will be for traditional conservation. Chavan added that he will raise money from bank loans if the Centre doesn’t offer the grant.