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Money wasted, rules violated in Konkan water projects: Report

Over the past three decades, the government has spent around Rs 6,000 crore on irrigation projects in the Konkan region, but not a single major or medium project has been completed so far.

A fact-finding report prepared by the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP) records that Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC), in charge of planning, building and operating irrigation dams in Konkan, does not have a single fully completed major or medium irrigation project to its credit till date.

According to the observations in the report, dams have been sanctioned and work started without acquiring land, without compensating and rehabilitating project affected people, and without securing the mandatory Environmental and Forest Clearances (which is a Punishable Offence) in a majority of the eco-sensitive areas of the Western Ghats.

Faulty planning

The corporation was formed in 1998 under KIDC Act 1997 to expedite irrigation projects in Konkan administrative division and also independently raise capital from the market for this purpose. When the corporation was formed, the ongoing construction of dams was transferred to KIDC. At present, the State Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is probing the alleged irregularities in awarding contracts in KIDC after a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by activist Anjali Damania.

“Apart from the violations, one important thing is that, building large dams in a terrain like that of Konkan is not at all feasible,” says Parineeta Dandekar of SANDRP. “Konkan is a hilly terrain compared to Western Maharashtra. How can the canal network of these big dams turn out effective in such topography?”

Work on for decades

One of the case studies cited in the report is of Talamba Major Irrigation project, which was planned across River Karli in Kudal Taluka of Sindhudurg 34 years ago. The project, which received its administrative clearance and funds in 1981, and for which Rs 142 crores have been spent till date, is not even 20 per cent complete. The project aims to irrigate 28,900 hectare and has a submergence area of 2,618 ha, including 626 ha of Forest Land in eco-sensitive areas.

Work on Talamba project started without Forest Clearance (FC) and it still does not have the permission. The State Forest Division has rejected its FC application in 2015. But the government continues with the project, which now costs an estimated Rs 1,772 Crores.

Kal Kumbhe Hydropower Project includes two dams (15MW and 10 MW) in the Western Ghats. One dam is over 55 metres high and has two massive tunnels. It has submerged six villages and displaced more than 1,500 people. When the average per MW cost for small hydropower project is about Rs 8-9 crore as per the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the cost for here will be a minimum of Rs 25 crore/MW.

The total expense now has crossed Rs 300 crore, and the expenditure lies locked for four years as the work has stopped due to protests from people who were not rehabilitated.

“This blind push for large dams has resulted in social, economic and ecological losses, without any substantial gains. We first need to acknowledge that we have committed mistakes in Konkan by planning large dams. Only then we can think of how to correct those mistakes,” said Ms Dandekar.

The SNDRP will be submitting its report to the State government.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 2:22:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news/money-wasted-rules-violated-in-konkan-water-projects-report/article8239583.ece

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