R. Jagadeeswara Rao

Raw deal to Sujala Sravanthi draws flak

VISAKHAPATNAM: The unilateral prioritisation of major irrigation projects by the Minister concerned which had pushed the all-important irrigation project Uttarandhra Sujala Sravanthi to the backburner, finally resulting in shelving the project altogether, has come in for criticism by the experts in the field of irrigation. Uttarandhra Sujala Sravanthi for which the then Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy laid the foundation and for which administrative sanction for Rs.7214 crores had been accorded in January this year, was a major irrigation project of Jalayagnam programme that envisaged provision of irrigation facilities to eight lakh acres in the upland areas of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts, drinking water to a population of nearly 30 lakh population, besides ensuring water to industries.

The government had reportedly decided to execute irrigation projects under the Jalayagnam programme in three phases. Projects which would be completed within two years, four years and the others which would be taken up some time after four years, had been identified. It was this prioritisation that had ‘dismayed’ the Forum for Action, Research and Policy. This Forum has been working on ‘Water Conflicts and Their Impact on Regional Disparities in Andhra Pradesh’ and essentially evaluates execution of various irrigation projects. It has former Engineer-in-Chief (Irrigation) S.M.A.A. Jinna, former Chief Engineer (Irrigation), S. Satyanarayana, Director Institute of Policy Studies and Member, National Appraisal Committee for Thermal Power Projects and Coal Mines, Government of India, R.V. Rama Rao, among others, as the members.

According to the Forum, the prioritisation, announced recently, would result in skewed development of various regions in the State and cause regional disparities. Citing a number of examples, the forum pointed out that these projects, proposed to be completed in two years were ‘shrouded in controversy’ and giving priority to such projects defied logic. The projects proposed to be implemented in two and four years and for which financial allocations had been made ‘do not have necessary technical, legal and scientific clearances’. The forum expressed the apprehension that financial allocations made to projects which are yet to get clearance, remain unspent till the last moment and ultimately get diverted to the projects over which some had a ‘vested interest’. The forum made a strong plea to the Chief Minister to constitute an expert panel of former chief engineers, professors from the universities from the three regions of the State, evaluate the database and then prioritise projects for implementation. This would ensure balanced regional development, Prof. R.V. Rama Rao and S. Satyanarayana, asserted while speaking to The Hindu.