Admitting to irregularities in the controversial Kondhane dam in Raigad district that had seen the cost jump from Rs. 80.35 crore to Rs. 435 crore in a month, after the height of the dam was increased without any assessment, the state water resources department has terminated the contract for the project.
The action by the government follows an inquiry conducted by water resources secretary EB Patil on orders from governor K Sankaranarayanan.
Sankaranarayanan had sought a report on the project on May 2 after complaints made by India Against Corruption (IAC).
Patil wrote in his communication to the governor’s office on May 31: “Instructions are issued to executive director, Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation, to terminate the contract for the original work of the dam as it was taken up without fulfilling the conditions mentioned in the administrative approval. It is proposed to take action against concerned officers after enquiry into the matter.” The department has also cancelled the contract for the additional work given to the same contractor after the height of the dam was increased from 39 meters to 71 meters.
IAC complainants Anjali Damania and Mayank Gandhi had pointed out several illegalities in the project, including the flawed tendering process and absence of mandatory approvals from the forest department, Maharashtra water resources regulatory authority, and the Archeological Society of India (ASI) as the dam is close to Kondhane caves.
The water resources department is headed by NCP minister Sunil Tatkare, who has been facing allegations over the way irrigation contracts have been handed out, resulting in massive cost and time overruns. He is also facing allegations of having disproportionate assets, purportedly amassed through investments made by companies owned by his son and associates. Patil’s reply came after the governor sent a reminder letter to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on May 25, mentioning that he had asked for a report within a week but had not received any reply.