Upper Bhadra project: Cost surges over threefold

Long road ahead: The construction work of Upper Bhadra project under way in Arakyatanahalli, Pavagada taluk, in Tumakuru district.

Long road ahead: The construction work of Upper Bhadra project under way in Arakyatanahalli, Pavagada taluk, in Tumakuru district.  

This has been attributed to delay in receiving forest and wildlife clearances and expansion of the scope of project

For over a decade, as farmers in Central Karnataka have waited for waters from the Bhadra to irrigate their land, the cost of the project has escalated steeply. The revised estimates prepared by the Irrigation Department now pegs the cost at an estimated ₹20,852 crore, a steep increase from the original ₹5,985 crore in 2008.

Incidentally, this is the second cost revision for the project that once completed is expected to irrigate 2.25 lakh hectares in the water-parched Central Karnataka districts of Chitradruga, Tumakuru, Davangere, and parts of Chikkamagaluru, besides filling up 367 tanks to improve the groundwater position. Earlier, in 2015, the State government approved the escalated cost of ₹12,340 crore for the project that had begun in 2009.

Sources in the Irrigation Department said that the time and cost overruns of the project was owing to delay in receiving forest and wildlife clearances, especially in N.R. Pura and Tarikere areas in Chikkamagaluru. “The scope of the project has also expanded over the years with flow irrigation being replaced by drip irrigation. The extent of land in the command area has also doubled,” the official said. The cost of land acquisition post 2014 has also gone up, he added.

In 2008, when the project was launched, it was only meant to use 21.5 tmcft of water to irrigate 1.07 lakh hectares of land in Chitradurga and fill up 156 tanks. This would cost ₹5,985 crore based on the schedule of rates prevailing in 2006-07. However, as the scope of the project expanded, the cost also went up by 2015 when the second revision of project cost came up based on schedule of rates in 2012-13. While flow irrigation conceived originally was replaced by drip irrigation, the extent of land went up to 2.25 lakh hectares across Chikkamagaluru, Chitradurga, Davangere, and Tumakuru districts.

Besides, the amount of water to be diverted to the project from the Bhadra also went up to 29.9 tmcft.

25% executed

Meanwhile, Irrigation Department sources said that of the current project cost of ₹12,340 crore, about 25% or ₹3,400 crore worth of work has been executed so far. According to an internal document, work on the Upper Bhadra project phase-I of lifting 17.4 tmcft from the Tunga to the Bhadra reservoir, the tunnelling work at Ajjampura that will carry the water from Bhadra reservoir, Tarikere lift irrigation project, and gravity canals in Chitradurga and Tumakuru are currently under progress.

“If funds come on time, the project will take at least four years to be completed. We now have necessary clearances, including forests and wildlife, for the project. Land acquisition is still under way at various places,” source said.

National project status pending

As the size of the project increased from irrigating 1.07 lakh hectares to 2.25 lakh hectares, Karnataka has urged the Centre to declare it a ‘national project’.

While the State government sought national project status in 2015, it is yet to be accorded. “A proposal has already been made to the Union government and it is with the Central Water Commission (CWC),” sources in the Irrigation Department said, adding that once it is declared so, the Centre would provide a huge quantum of funds.

Sources said that projects that are envisaged to irrigate over 2 lakh hectares qualify to be a national project.

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 2:31:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/upper-bhadra-project-cost-surges-over-threefold/article30778287.ece

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