Monument of mis-management

Himanshu Shekhar

Even after spending around Rs. 29,000 Crore and almost 49 years on Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) of Gujrat, only 29 percent of canal network has been completed. The implementation of the project is progressing with very slow pace of 3 percent per year. A recent report of People’s Inquiry Committee captioned ‘Narmada Project: A Monument of Mis-management’ exhibits this alarming picture.

SSP project was started in 1961 and it was said to be the world’s largest irrigation system. Under this project, 66,000 km long canal network is proposed consisting main canal, branch canal, distributaries, minors, sub-minors and field channels. It is promised that after completion of this project, 1.8 million hectares of land, covering 3,300 villages, will be irrigated.

But, the report of this committee tells a different story. Quoting a reply of state government, this report says, ‘Only 19,836 km or 26 percent of canal network was completed as on August 25, 2009. The figure for the canal network in previous year stood at 18,078 km as on same date.’ It means, the government has completed just 1,758 km or 2.3 percent of canal network in one year. At this rate the completion of remaining work of this project will take another 31 years.

According to this report, only 4.7 percent work of this project has been completed during 2001-2010. This was said that, SSP will irrigate 1.8 million hectares of land but till date this project is able to irrigate merely 0.11 million hectares of land. It was planned that the irrigation facility would be provided to 0.65 million hectares of Gujrat’s land by March, 2009. But, this target was not achieved till January, 2010.

So far, Rs. 29,000 crore of hard earned money of tax-payers have  been spent on this project and for the completion of work, concerned authorities are asking for another Rs. 10,000 crore. It is pertinent to mention that the original budget for this project was around Rs. 6,000 crore. After exceeding up to almost seven times, the project is yet to be completed. And keeping the pace of the work in mind, it is easy to figure out that people of Gujrat are bound to wait for a long period of time to get any kind of benefit from this project.

It seems that the Government of Gujrat is not intending to complete this project as soon as possible because most of the engineers, who are working on this project, are set to retire by 2012 and no recruitment plan is taking place. According to this report, ‘Staffing in the Narmada project is another issue where the intentions of the state government are dubious. By 2012, almost 80 percent of the engineers are going to retire. No recruitment is planned out even today.’

It was claimed that, SSP will supply water to 9,000 drought affected villages of Gujrat. But this promise is yet to be fulfilled. Instead of supplying water to needy villagers and the common men of state, government is busy in increasing the quota of water allocation to industries. Quoting CAG, this report says, ‘Gujrat has increased the allocation of Narmada waters for industry five fold last year, eating into the share of drought affected villages.’ Because of this villagers are constrained to struggle for drinking water.

Lambasting over the slow pace of work, this committee recommends, ‘The government should formulate final timetable of implementation of canal network and should stick to it under all circumstances.’ Showing its dismay on broken promises committee says, ‘People have a right to know as to when they can conclusively expect Narmada’s water at their doorstep regularly and in adequate quantity with quality.’

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