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Building projects in the air

Since Independence the Rajasthan government had spent around Rs 6,600 crore on building up the infrastructure for dams and canals, according to state officials. And yet the state remains dry and most of the money spent seems to have been projects that no longer exist. A look at this precarious situation.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Jaipur
PUBLISHED ON JUL 08, 2003 01:30 PM IST
Despite the large number of water works in Rajasthan, this remains a common sight in the state, seen almost annually through the dry season.

Imagine a scenario when there are thousands of millionaires in Rajasthan. There would be a boom in trade, industry and business. The state would be one of the most prosperous ones in the country - drought or no drought.

And all this could be true. That is, if only the government had made some policy shift. If only it had distributed the money, spent on water-related projects and schemes in the past four years, among individuals.

It would then not be called a welfare state, of course. But results would be no different. Fields still remain parched. People still starve. And water is still scarce. Over 2,500 tankers are still supplying water in over 2,300 villages.
Vast spending: According to officials, since Independence Rajasthan government had spent around Rs 6,600 crore on building up the infrastructure for dams and canals.

In the past four years, relief department alone has spent Rs 800 crore under drought relief and 80 per cent of this was spent on water harvesting, according to Relief Secretary Ram Lubhaya.

Irrigation department has spent Rs 367 crore on 16,000 water works, out of the estimated expenditures of Rs 1,600 crore on 4,7000 works under District wise Master Plan, according to Irrigation Secretary R N Meena.

And this is just a part of the total money spent on water-related projects in the state. There are about a dozen other departments with similar schemes and objectives.

So, where did all the money go? In the villages of Masalpur sub-tehsil in Karauli district lie the remains of what was supposed to be anicuts and johads (ponds) to harvest rain water: broken, damaged and often, non-existent.

According to a local journalist Balkishan, the government spent Rs one crore in the past two years on building about 20 anicuts in the stretch of five kilometres between Anijra and Kanchanpura. Most of them are "almost non-existent" today.

"The government built anicuts by erecting one to two feet high walls. They were all swept away with little rains," said Hari Singh Meena, a farmer and former Panchayat Samiti member.

In the villages of Arjunpura, Garh Marora, Gadakhar and Sankor in this sub-tehsil, over Rs one crore was spent on building over half-dozen anicuts. Most of them developed cracks resulting in seepage of water.  
"Show me a drop of water stored by these anicuts," said Meena.

Examples galore: A few hundred kilometres away in Sikar district, there were similar complaints. Near Baleshwar Mor in Neem ka Thana tehsil, the officials had erected an anicut (about 15 feet high and 20 feet wide) to check the store water coming down the slopes of surrounding hills.

The location was right and intentions good. About three years after it was built, there is just dry field at the bottom. The surface has lots of cracks showing that the soil had soaked water but the wall of the anicut had no marks of water storage for any period of time. The anicut had stopped the flow of water but the soil and sucked near ground level only.

Villagers showed the cement repairs on the other side of the wall to prevent the seepage. It proved to be irreparable because the anicut lacked any solid foundation under the surface. Water flows under and through the anicut while the structure remains, said villagers.

A few kilometres towards Jaipur, near Raipur Mor, a government-built anicut lay broken. The Watershed department had built it to check the outflow of water coming down the slopes of hills. Only that it was built on sandy soils and the water had first broken through the soil and then the anicut.

Poor planning?:These were only a few instances of the poor planning and extravaganza of the government officials. Thousands of others dot each district of the State even as there are more allocations for such works.
The state government's "massive programme" of building one lakh water harvesting structures is on. During last year's drought relief works, 53,000 out of one lakh works were related to water.

As per the government claims, as a result of its efforts towards water harvesting and conservation in the past two years, water level in wells has increased from one to 15 feet.

D K Singh

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