The White Paper on the irrigation scam in Maharashtra has put the blame on cost escalations in the Gosikhurd national irrigation project, increase in the Current Schedule Rates (CSR) and increase in the land price for acquisition.
The White Paper has given a clean-chit to elected representatives and irrigation officers who have not completed the project even after 28 years; this has resulted in a rise in the project cost from Rs. 372 crore in 1983 to Rs. 7,777.85 crore in 2008. According to figures presented in the White Paper, the total expenditure on the project till March 31, 2012 was Rs. 6,073 crore.
After getting administrative approval in 1983, the project has seen two officially approved cost escalations. As per the third proposal submitted by the irrigation department on September 27, 2012, the total cost of the project will reach Rs. 13,739 crore. In spite of cost escalations totalling almost 300%, the total area under irrigation was only 34,056 hectare by June, 2011. When planned in 1983, the project was expected to irrigate 2.50 lakh hectare.
The Gosikhurd irrigation project on the Wainganga River was declared a national project by the Central government.
The White Paper has blamed the increase in the CSR (of different materials used for construction) as the major reason for cost escalation.
According to the paper, due to delay in the project, the cost for the rehabilitation of the project-affected people and land acquisition has also increased manifold. About 50% of the cost escalation is due to increase in CSR and 17% increase is due to rehabilitation issues.
The paper has not mentioned the reasons behind the 28-year delay to complete the project.
Gosikhurd is not an isolated example. Bawanthadi Interstate Irrigation project in Bhandara district has shown cost escalation from Rs. 11.65 crore in 1975 to Rs. 561 crore in 2009. The Nimn Wardha project in Wardha district has also shown a cost escalation from Rs. 48.05 crore in 1981 to Rs. 2,232 crore in 2011. The Pench project in Nagpur district has shown a cost escalation from Rs. 26.22 crore in 1969 to Rs. 939 crore in 2009. Almost every irrigation project in Vidarbha has faced manifold cost escalations.