The Centre on Saturday approved funds to the tune of Rs. 405 crore for Maharashtra’s Gosikhurd irrigation project, State officials said.
The project, which commenced in 1983 in Bhandara district, has been mired in allegations of corruption and misappropriation of funds. While the initial project cost was Rs. 372 crore, Rs. 6073 crore has already been spent in the last 30 years. The costs are now estimated to touch Rs. 13000 crore.
An official press release said the funds were released due to the consistent efforts of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
The Centre finances 90 per cent of Gosikhurd, which is a national project, under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme. The project was planned to irrigate 2.50 lakh hectares with a network of canals, including a right bank canal 99 km long, a left bank canal of 22.93 km and four lift irrigation schemes.
Even before the controversy became public, Nandkumar Vadnere, the retired Principal Secretary of the Water Resources Department, submitted two reports on the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC)’s performance from 2006-2007 to 2009-2010. One part of his report highlighted several irregularities in the project, which the State government has repeatedly defended.
However, no action was taken against the VIDC officials. The much hyped white paper on irrigation scams in the State blamed cost escalations — increase in the current schedule rates and increase in the land price for acquisition — for the rise in project costs.