Maharashtra needs ₹68,000 crore to complete irrigation projects in Vidarbha and Marathwada
The state government will need Rs68,000 crore to complete ongoing irrigation projects in the Godavari river basin located in Vidarbha and Marathwada. This is the finding of the state’s first integrated water plan report for the Godavari river basin submitted to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday. The state has five river basins with the Godavari basin being the largest, contributing to 48% of the state’s water resource.
Currently, there are 626 ongoing projects in both these regions, at the centre of the state’s agrarian crisis. Several of these projects were cleared at the behest of contractors instead of checking water availability and requirement of the area. This ad-hoc planning and execution of irrigation projects to favour private interests at the cost of norms led to the irrigation scam.
An integrated water plan for the state, first envisaged in a 2005 law, has been more than a decade late. It refers to the mapping of existing river basins, ground water tables in the state to arrive at water distribution and an equitable development plan for the state. If the government goes with the recommendations of the integrated water plan committee for the Godavari basin, no new projects can be taken up until ongoing ones are completed. The report also reveals that while surplus water is available in the lower Vidarbha region, there is less scope for water storage in Marathwada and absolute none in Nasik and Ahmednagar, where the water storage possibility has been exhausted.
“So far in this basin, across North Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha, 4,325 irrigation projects have been completed and 670 are ongoing. Many of these projects were cleared solely on paper without any scrutiny of water availability and now these should be cross-checked with the integrated plan,’’ said KP Bakshi, former bureaucrat and chairman of the Godavari river basin water plan committee.
“The projects that have been planned in the absence of water availability should be scrapped. We have recommended a go-ahead for 191 ongoing projects and taking up another 94 projects at a later stage,’’ he added.
The three-part report submitted by the Bakshi committee includes mapping of the Godavari basin and water availability as per the tribunal by looking at existing dams, projects and pointing to surplus and no surplus water areas. The report has also proposed financing of these projects up to 2029-30.
According to this report, the earliest a new project can be taken up in Marathwada is in 2020-21, while a new project can be taken up in Vidarbha in 2024-25
The Godavari report will form the backbone for the integrated river basin water plans for the remaining four basins, including Krishna, Tapi, Narmada and Konkan region. Together, these reports will form the integrated water map for the entire state.
Fadnavis set the ball rolling for an integrated water use plan for Maharashtra in the aftermath of the scam by implementing the dormant Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority Act and setting up a state water council. The Godavari committee was set up in 2016. The big challenge before the government is to speedily execute other river basins water plans and accept recommendations made by the expert committees.