CAG report finds 1988 dam work intended to benefit district’s tribal population is incomplete despite massive cost escalation.

As Maharashtra battles what is probably its worst drought in recent history, the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on the economic sector for the year ended March 2015 has shown how successive state governments failed to complete an irrigation project planned nearly three decades ago.

The medium irrigation project under CAG scrutiny was started in August 1988 by the Dhule Medium Project Division No 2, Nandurbar

. The dam to span the Nagan river in Nandurbar’s Nawapur taluka was to be built in four years at an estimated cost of Rs 7.09 crore . Now, project cost has shot up to Rs 92.62 crore, of which Rs 81.19 crore has been spent to complete around 98 per cent of dam work and 58 per cent of gate erection work by April 2015.

The live storage capacity of the dam was estimated at approximately 23.62 Million Cubic Metre (MCUM), but only 5.90, 6.25 and 6.77 MCUM could be achieved in 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively, thus depriving the tribal population of the intended benefits.

The report says the state government failed to reply to the CAG’s queries on the project till December 2015, though its status was reported to the government in June 2015. Acknowledging the delay, a senior government officer said previous CAG reports too had shown such examples. “There needs to be a policy to decide on such long-standing projects, but this seems like a distant dream at present,” he said.

The Nandurbar irrigation project was planned to create a gross storage capacity of 26.84 MCUM with a live storage capacity of 23.62 MCUM to irrigate 2,486 hectare of land through an eight-km right bank canal (RBC) and a 14.1-km left bank canal (LBC) with distributaries, minors and sub-minors.

The project cost was revised to Rs 49.54 crore in June 1998 and again to Rs 92.62 crore in July 2008 due to delays in implementing the project, changes in scope of work and delays in land acquisition.

According to the CAG report, 398.01 hectare was required for the dam, but the construction activity which started in 1990 was stalled due to land acquisition hitches. When the required land was acquired by 2003-04, there were further delays in the rehabilitation of project affected persons of Keli and Bandharpada villages falling in the project’s submergence area. This, the report says, was done in 2007.

In its observations, the CAG report has noted that project was begun without ensuring availability of land for major components such as the dam and canals, which is a violation of the provisions contained in the Maharashtra Public Works Manual.

It goes on to say that for the total 22.10 km comprising two canals, land admeasuring 136.68 ha was needed but only 13.81 ha (10 per cent) could be acquired. By March 2015, only 2.5 km of the canals was constructed at an expenditure of Rs 2.38 crore.

The state government on Tuesday formed a committee to set up an Integrated State Water Policy (ISWP). The committee is likely to discuss the Nandurbar project in its first meeting.