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Read more about Budget 2018: This is why Maharashtra\'s drought woes are likely to continue on Business Standard. Even after 20 years, irrigation projects worth Rs 9 billion remain incomplete and now their cost is expected to be more than Rs 50 billion
drought woes are likely to continue
Even after 20 years, irrigation projects worth Rs 9 billion remain incomplete
and now their cost is expected to be more than Rs 50 billion
In many ways, the Lendi irrigation project close to the Andhra Pradesh-Maharashtra
border continues to be a prime example of the excruciating delays that have plagued
irrigation projects in India.
Conceived in 1987, this major irrigation project was to be completed in 1992. The
project involved building a dam at the Lendi river to store over 6 trillion cubic metres of
water before it joined the Manjira river, a tributary of the Godavari, the largest river of
peninsular India. The project being executed by the Godavari Marathwada Irrigation
Development Corporation Ltd was originally envisaged to be built at the cost of half a
billion rupees. But in 2016, authorities further pushed the completion date to 2020 with
a revised cost of Rs 14 billion. If the project is completed after 28 years of delay, it will
join 16 other such irrigation projects in Maharashtra that have been hanging fire for
over two decades. Many of these projects are in the severe drought-hit regions of
Vidarbha and Marathwada in the state.
Budget 2018: This shouldn’t have been much of a bother for Finance Minister Arun
Jaitley, who gets set to present his government’s last full-fledged Budget on February 1,
2018. But the fact that such delayed projects dot Maharashtra would certainly rankle the
finance minister. Information sourced from his ministry shows that these multi-decade
delays in completing minor and major irrigation projects across Maharashtra have cost
the government a lot of money over the years. Out of a total of 29 irrigation projects
under construction in the state, 16 are delayed with massive time lags. These projects
that should have been completed at an estimated cost of Rs 9 billion will now end up
costing more than Rs 50 billion. And the fate of those expected to be commissioned in
2018 still remains unclear.
Maharashtra might be India’s richest state, yet every year the state faces debilitating
droughts leading to destruction of farm livelihoods and loss of life due to the paucity of
drinking water. In 2013, the state faced its worst drought ever. If that wasn’t enough, in
2015 and 2016 severe droughts again hit the state. Reports suggest that the state’s
farmers sought insurance to the tune of Rs 41 billion for crop losses due to drought in
2016. That year, the agriculture sector in the state contracted by 4.6 per cent.
While Jaitley might be inclined to announce new irrigation projects for Maharashtra,
the Narendra Modi administration might do well to ensure that irrigation projects
scheduled to be completed this year and the ones hanging fire for more than two
decades see the light of the day first, without suffering the same fate as other projects
like the Lendi irrigation project. Finance ministry data show that at least six irrigation
projects in the drought-hit state are scheduled to be commissioned in 2018. All these
projects were conceived before 1997. Although conceived at a cost of Rs 7 billion, their
revised completion cost 20 years later exceeds Rs 27 billion.