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Stage I of UKP yet to be completed

By Our Special Correspondent

HUBLI, MAY 20. Karnataka has begun preparations for fixing skin plates on the crest gates of the Alamatti Dam of the Upper Krishna Project, with a view to impounding water up to a height of 519.6 metres when monsoon begins.

The State is still awaiting sanction from the Union Government for the Stage II of the UKP. However, it has not completed work sanctioned as part of Phase II of Stage I of the project. The work has been going on since 1989, and unless it is completed, Karnataka will not be able to make much progress in its efforts to utilise water impounded in the Alamatti Dam.

Phase II of Stage I of the UKP envisages raising the height of the Alamatti Dam up to 509 meters, construction of 18 distributaries under the Shahpur Branch Canal, completion of 50.8 km of the Mudbal Branch Canal along with distributaries and 64 km of Indi Branch Canal with distributaries, construction of 672 km of roads, establishment and maintenance of a Water and Land Management Institute (WALMI) for imparting training, and rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) programmes for the people affected by the project.

The work, which was estimated to cost Rs. 791.67 crores, was undertaken in 1989 with Rs. 308 crores from the World Bank. The main objective of Phase II was to irrigate 1.5 lakh hectares, to provide employment to one lakh families.

Work, which was to have been completed by December 1996, had not been done even by March 1999. Work on canals and distributaries is yet to be completed.

The delay has affected creation of irrigation potential. Although a capacity to irrigate 1.18 lakh hectares was created, the actual area irrigated was only 48,583 hectares. The expenditure was 135 per cent of the estimate.

The price paid for the delay is quite staggering. The original estimate of Rs. 791.67 crores in 1989 was revised to Rs. 1726.30 crores in 1995, and to Rs. 2,417 crores in 1997. A total of Rs. 1,017 crores had been spent by the end of June 1997. As a result of the delay, the cost of various components of the project increased from 50 to 740 per cent by July 1995. The cost of irrigation per hectare went up from Rs. 53,000 to Rs. 1.61 lakhs. The poor implementation of the R&R programme led to the World Bank stopping aid in June 1997 -- Rs. 111.86 crores was due from the bank at that time.

An audit in March 1999 attributed the increase in the project costs to higher cost of land acquisition (Rs. 5 crores), high tendered rates (Rs. 84 crores), change in parameters and scope of the Alamatti Dam (Rs. 22 crores), additional submergence and changes in the R&R package (Rs. 461 crores), and payment at increased rates (Rs. 291 crores).

While the agreement with the World Bank stipulated that the State Government ensure adequate budgetary provision and timely release of funds, no separate funds were earmarked for Phase II. Funds were included in the total yearly provision made for the UKP.

As per the Staff Appraisal Report (SAR) and the Revised Implementation Schedule (RIS) from 1988-89 to June 1997, construction under Phase II was sluggish throughout the period of execution of the project. The shortfall in achievement of the target was between 38 per cent and 53 per cent between 1989 and 1993. Even after targets were revised as per the RIS, the shortfall in achievement of the target was between 30 per cent and 70 per cent during 1995-1997.

It has also been revealed in the audit that there was delay in acquisition of land, supply of water to contractors for construction of Indi and Mudbal branch canals and settlement of disputes relating to the claims of the contractors and disputes over use of mechanical lining equipment in respect of Indi and Mudbal branch canals. Adequate funds were not released in the early years of the project. These indicate the Government's failure to synchronise work on the project, says a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

The State Government has failed to take note of serious deficiencies noticed in the Narayanpur Left Bank Canal (NLBC) since October 1994. The failure to irrigate the extend of land envisaged under Phase II is due to the defects in the NLBC.

The NLBC was completed in Phase I of Stage I of the UKP for a total discharge of 10,000 cusecs of water. The discharge required to meet the irrigation potential under Phase I and Phase II was 1,900 and 2,800 cusecs, respectively. In 1997, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, made a study on the stability of the NLBC at the request of the Government, and in 1998, the hydraulics of the canal was tested by the Karnataka Engineering Research Station (KERS).

The study by the IISc. reportedly revealed that the canal was weak in the stretch from 46 km to 70 km, and that it was not capable of carrying a discharge beyond 2,300 cusecs (23 per cent of capacity). The final report is awaited. The KERS reported that the project authorities were oblivious of the existence of the calibration cures prepared for the Head Regulator. As the total discharge required for Phase I and Phase II is 4,725 cusecs, the failure of the NLBC poses a serious threat to the efficiency of the project, it is said.

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