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Kondhane dam project scaled down for faster clearances?

The Kondhane dam project in Raigad might have been deliberately scaled down from a medium project to a minor one to get speedier approval, after which it was scaled back up to a big project, according to documents released under the RTI act. Ketaki Ghoge reports.

mumbai Updated: Sep 15, 2012 01:46 IST
Ketaki Ghoge

The Kondhane dam project in Raigad might have been deliberately scaled down from a medium project to a minor one to get speedier approval, after which it was scaled back up to a big project, according to documents released under the RTI act.

The documents were released by the water resources department to the India Against Corruption team this week.

So far, the story of Kondhane was about shocking cost escalations that saw a minor project being converted into a medium one within one month. The dam in Raigad saw cost escalations of nearly 500% in one month.

Official records show the water resources department had tried to get clearance for a 74-m-high dam at Kondhane, costing around Rs 443 crore in 2006 and 2010, but failed to get clearance.

The media release from IAC states the first Kondhane project report dates back to March 1984. It was not granted administrative approval then. In 2005, in a meeting chaired by the then water resources minister Ajit Pawar, a decision was taken to resume the project again, this time with a height of 74m.

Internal correspondence in the department refers to these details, including the meeting chaired by Pawar. An initial survey was proposed in January 2006, but the state did not clear the project. It was rejected again in December 2010 on technical grounds.

In May 2011, the department scaled down the project and sought approval for a dam 39m high with a submergence area of 130.57 hectares and a cost of Rs 56 crore.

The project was approved and handed over to FA Enterprises in July 2011. Within a month, its cost was hiked from Rs 56.15 crores to Rs 271 crore and its height increased from 39m to 71m. The total project cost (including land acquisition) went up to Rs 435 cr from Rs 80 cr. This was done without any technical assessment.

Government sources said the dam could have been scaled down to bypass the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) norms and Governor's directives.

MWRRA clearance is required for all minor, medium and major projects. But the latter have to subscribe to norms by the Central water commission and Planning commission, while minor projects have to adhere to state norms. The governor's go ahead is required for all new projects but officials claimed such clearance is not required for projects with a submergence area of less than 250 hectares.