Land acquisition will cause biggest jump in Yettinahole project bill

The State’s ambitious Yettinahole drinking water project is staring at its cost more than doubling — from about ₹13,000 crore when originally planned to ₹25,000 crore now. While the steepest hike has come in the cost of land acquisition, other factors include Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the cost of canal work and roadwork.

The cost of land acquisition has jumped from about ₹460 crore to ₹4,105 crore. While the government estimated the acquisition cost at ₹4 lakh per acre acquired for construction of gravity canal, reservoir and lift area, the revised Land Acquisition Act of 2014 made the compensation payable four times the market value, drastically altering the scheme of things.

About 12,000 acres in Hassan and Tumakuru districts is to be acquired for the 248-km stretch of gravity canal. A top Irrigation Department official said, “The land acquisition cost, which was 150% to 200% of the land value, has shot up to about 400%. The cost of acquiring land for the reservoir at Koratagere is also to go up.”

Pipes add up

If the initial plan for the canal and feeder was to be open, it was decided to have pipes. Also, as the project gained pace, feeders to new areas in Ramanagaram and Bengaluru Rural were added. The net result is the escalation of cost of canal work from ₹4,514 crore to ₹7,981 crore. The feeder cost has gone up from ₹1,910 crore to ₹6,551 crore.

This apart, the introduction of GST midway through the project in 2017 has added ₹466 crore to the project (at a rate of 12%). This cost was not envisioned when the project was approved. Adding another ₹450 crore is the plan to develop roads.

Sources in the Irrigation Department said they were now calculating the precise escalation of project cost and a report would be submitted to the government in about two weeks. While the project, when launched, had a completion deadline of June 2020, it is running behind schedule.

“Even if the land acquisition is completed now, it could take about two years to complete the project. But the acquisition issue has left the completion date hanging,” a source said, adding that to reduce further escalation of costs the government needed to quickly resolve the land acquisition issue at Byramangala village in Koratagere. “For an ongoing work, cost escalation has been worked out to be 3-4%. The problem could be for works that are yet to start, where the escalation of cost could be as much as 10%.”

Defending the escalation, a senior irrigation official said that such escalations were common for a large project. “All works are not tendered together, but are taken up in phases. Rising acquisition cost was not foreseen. Even with all this, the pace of the project is quite good. Many projects like Upper Bhadra are languishing for decades.”

Water to rivers

Not waiting for the project to be completed, the Irrigation Department now plans to pump water from Yettinahole from this monsoon.

“The lift component part, including the pumps and power house, is ready. We want to take up a trial of lifting water from Yettinahole this monsoon and letting it [flow] to Hemavati reservoir at Gorur in Hassan from near Sakleshpur,” an official source said. In about eight months, when the gravity canal is ready till near Arsikere area, water will be pumped into Vedavati river, a tributary of the Tungabhadra, which will flow into Vani Vilas Sagar reservoir in Hiriyur taluk of Chitradurga district.

Compensating farmers

The delay in the State government’s decision on compensating the farmers of Koratagere, where a reservoir is planned at Bhairagondlu, remains a concern for concern for officials. For, by delaying approval of an additional burden of ₹300 crore, which will be the cost of meeting the demand of farmers in Koratagere, the State could be staring at an annual escalation of about ₹600 crore, an official said.

“Though a decision to compensate the Koratagere farmers on a par with [those of] Doddaballapur will be a departure from the provisions of the law, it could be done as it is a drinking water project. The file is in the Chief Minister’s Office,” the official said.

While farmers in Doddaballapur are getting a compensation of ₹32 lakh an acre, the farmers of Koratagere are getting ₹8 lakh an acre, as the guidance values are ₹8 lakh and ₹2 lakh an acre, respectively.

However, another senior irrigation official said the government was worried that giving special treatment to farmers in Koratagere could lead to similar demands from farmers elsewhere. “Already, the Almatti project is affected as compensation for submergence of land if the height increases from 521 feet to 524 feet is to be about ₹40,000 crore,” the official said.

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Printable version | Mar 5, 2021 11:06:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/land-acquisition-will-cause-biggest-jump-in-yettinahole-project-bill/article30660360.ece

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