Maharashtra plans to revive controversial Konkan irrigation projects 

  • Ketaki Ghoge, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Mar 05, 2016 17:33 IST
Dams, including Balganga (above), are among the 12 projects from Konkan under the ACB scanner following a Bombay high court order, after it was revealed that they violated various norms. (Bachchan Kumar)

The BJP-led state government has taken a policy decision to get the controversial irrigation projects — Balganga, Kondhane, Kalu and Shai, planned in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region — back on track, even as the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) probe into these dams is far from complete. 

These dams are among the 12 projects from Konkan under the ACB scanner following a Bombay high court order, after it was revealed that they violated various norms.

These four projects were all contracted to FA Constructions by implementing agency Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC). The directors of the company along with KIDC officials have now been named in the FIR filed by the ACB in the Balganga dam case. 

Besides arbitrary cost escalations that pointed to siphoning off public money, various other norms were violated while clearing these four projects, including the lack of a project design, water availability certificates, forest clearances and rehabilitation of the project affected. 

“We have taken a policy decision that dams that are essential to meet water requirements like these four should be revived even though they are mired in corruption. However, we have no plan to give them to the same contractors, who clearly inflated the costs. We plan to carry out financial evaluation of the projects, actual work done and then issue new tenders for the remaining work. This evaluation will also show us the real picture of how much the costs were inflated by,’’ said minister of state for water resources Vijay Shivtare.

“The existing contractor will not be paid anything by the government,” he said.

These four projects were ostensibly taken up to provide water supply to the burgeoning MMR and Thane city and were to be funded by planning agencies Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco). Shivtare said these agencies are willing to fund these projects again.

Activists, however, said the BJP government should first reassess whether these dams are required and correct the mistakes made by their predecessors.

“The government will have to first go back to the drawing board and assess whether there is a need for these projects. Most of them have gone wrong from the word go. For instance, the Balganga project was cleared on the basis of the project design of another dam,’’ said Anjali Damania, activist, whose PIL led to the high court order in the Konkan projects.

A bigger question raised is whether the MMR needs 12 dams as planned by the earlier government. A report by the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) released in 2014 pointed out that the dams were being planned on the basis of a 1993 report by water expert Madhav Chitale that was based on wrong predictions of population as well as water requirement for the city.

“None of these dams will provide any water to the locals here who have been facing severe water shortages. The water will be diverted to industry and big cities like Mumbai and Thane. So if ministers are saying it will resolve Thane district’s water crisis, that’s not true. Why should locals not have a right over these natural resources?’’ said Indavi Tulpule of the Shramik Mukti Sanghatana that has been representing the locals in their fight against the big dams. 

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