Water resources department chief engineer Vijay Pandhare, on Monday, tore into the government’s irrigation policy finding fault with everything from projects to people. “Corrupt and greedy people are running the irrigation department, because of which irrigation projects [are] not successful,” said Pandhare, who is credited as the whistleblower in the case.
Pandhare was addressing a water management conference, presided by Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar. RTI activist Anjali Damania was also present, when Pandhare launched his tirade.
“People who have lost consciousness (sic) are drafting policies. These unmindful people have come together. Why does an individual need so much wealth,” he said.
Pandhare said the state’s irrigation policy is expensive but yields no results. “Current projects are horrifying,” said Pandhare, who is also member of state-level technical advisory committee. Right from the planning stage, decisions are made without much thought, he said. “What is the use of these projects if farmers don’t benefit, and somebody else pockets the money,” he said.
“Unfortunately, these people do not realise that their policies are wrong as they have lost consciousness,” he said.
“Efficiency of irrigation projects is only 18% despite spending Rs5 lakh per hectare. The irrigation department has an annual budget of Rs60,000 crore, but tenders worth Rs70,000 crore are floated. As a result, we continue to pay for project cost escalations, but work is never complete.”
Pandhare said out of 18,000 Kolhapur-type (KT) wells in state, except those in western Maharashtra, all other KT wells had nothing but iron plates, with no water at the bottom. “Lift irrigation schemes have become non-functional because of the amount of power they need. Power supply to lift irrigation schemes has been disconnected because of failure to pay bills. Large projects will not be operational unless they are self-sustained,” Pandhare said. “We are not able to store water in Gosikhurd dam as rehabilitation is not complete. Fifteen% water evaporates because of lack of a distribution network. This is nothing but squandering people’s money.”