Irrigation project delays hike cost 50 times

April 8th, 2008 - 5:02 pm ICT by admin  

Ranchi, April 8 (IANS) Hanging fire for 35 years, an irrigation project in Jharkhand has swelled 50 times in cost - with no immediate benefits in sight. Designed to irrigate some 200,000 hectares, the Swarnarekha Multi Purpose (SMP) project was estimated to cost Rs.90 crore (Rs.900 million) in 1973. So far, only 40 percent of the project has been completed and, when last reviewed in 2005, the project cost had escalated to Rs.4,540 crore (Rs.45.4 billion).

Water resources ministry officials attribute the delay to several factors.

“The forest clearance is pending with the centre… Displacement is another issue. And during the past 35 years, the compensation amount, labour cost and that of raw materials has increased manifold,” officials told IANS.

When SMP estimates were reviewed first - in 1977, the deadline was to complete the project by 1987-88 at a revised cost of Rs.129 crore (Rs.1.29 billion). At the fifth review, in 2005, the project cost had increased to Rs.4,540 crore (Rs.45.4 billion) with the completion deadline now shifted to 2010.

Irrigation department officials here say that besides the Swarnarekha project suffering similar delays - as also cost escalation - are the Ajay Barrage, Punsai Barrage and the Panchkhero Dam.

All these irrigation projects were mooted almost 30 years ago and remain pending - in all cases the cost has escalated 50 to 70 times.

The irrigation projects assume significance because only 12 percent of agricultural land in the state is irrigated through canals and other irrigation systems. As a result, only 40 percent of the land in the state is cultivable.

If all the irrigation projects are completed, irrigated land will increase to 40 percent in the state.

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