Admitting that the current drought ravaging parts of Maharashtra is the direct result of bad irrigation planning, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said the government will now have to consider linking payments to contractors to completion of projects on time.
Speaking to HT on Thursday, the CM, who has been in office for two years now and faces assembly elections in 18 months, said he was determined to break “some entrenched habits’’ in the way governments worked.
Chavan, who has had several run-ins with deputy CM Ajit Pawar and the NCP over the irrigation issue, said: “Attention has been paid only to big-ticket dams … and this doesn’t help farmers who are beyond the command area of those dams. Moreover, the contractor system is an impediment to swift completion of the dams. So we will have to link [payment for] dams to completion within time frames rather than endless payouts to contractors who never deliver 100%.’’
So, instead of big dams, the government would now begin construction of farm ponds, nullah bunds, cement bunds and other such minor irrigation works that would be make water available to farmers 24X7 through the year, Chavan said.
Only this kind of planning would pull the state through droughts and human interventions that were detrimental to farm interests, he added.
Chavan said: “My challenge is to keep Maharashtra at number one in every area and ahead of Gujarat,’’ for which the state must begin with its farmers.
“Maharashtra is a state which is bigger than many European countries in terms of both area and population. We are comparable with Mexico in that regard. Within India, Punjab has 98% irrigation and never dependent on the vagaries of the monsoon. We have only 18% and in Vidarbha, like in Amravati, a major cotton growing area, we are down to just 9%".