Special Correspondent

Rs.210-crore project on the anvil

Thiruvananthapuram: The government is preparing a project to restore 39 dams in the State, under plans to ensure the safety of the decades-old structures and improve farming, Minister for Water Resources N.K. Premachandran said here on Tuesday.

Delivering the inaugural address at a two-day workshop on ‘Benchmarking of Irrigation Systems’, he said the project estimated to cost Rs.210 crore would be submitted to the World Bank for financial assistance.

As many as 19 dams under the Irrigation Department and 20 dams under the Kerala State Electricity Board would be covered under the project being formulated by the Irrigation Design and Research Board (IDRB). Mr.Premachandran said the breach of the Moolathara dam in Palakkad district and the Pazhassi dam in Kannur were eye openers for the government.

“The evaluation of commissioned projects and assessment of their efficiency and utilisation were not taken seriously. Absence of proper evaluation will lead to great danger. The breach of the right bank protection structure of the Moolathara dam and the damage caused to the shutters of the Pazhassi dam raised alarm bells in the districts, forcing the government to rethink its approach to the safety of dams.”

The Minister said the government had sanctioned Rs.20 crore for the revamp of the headwork and canals of the Kuttiyadi project in Kozhikode district.

Highlighting the need for survey and documentation of irrigation projects, he said, “the decline in paddy farming led to a change in utility for many of the projects. Most of them are now used for drinking water supply and irrigation. Future performance and sustainability have to be factored in when carrying out studies in this area.”

Mr.Premachandran announced that all irrigation projects would be benchmarked in two years, under a time-bound action plan to assess performance and improve efficiency. Secretary, Irrigation, M.N. Gunavardhanan said benchmarking represented a departure from traditional methods of evaluating irrigation projects. He said the process would lead to better performance and quality and equip the public sector to face challenges from the private sector.

K.V. Jayakumar, Executive Director, Centre for Water Resources Development and Management, P.Rajasekharan, member, State Planning Board, and faculty members from the Water and Land Management Institute, Aurangabad, and the Maharashtra Water Resources Development Centre (MWRDC) were present.