189 Maha ir­ri­ga­tion projects were cleared flout­ing law: HC

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - NEWS - Ke­taki Ghoge ke­taki.ghoge@hin­dus­tan­times.com

MUM­BAI: Some 189 ir­ri­ga­tion projects in Ma­ha­rash­tra cleared be­tween 2003 and 2013 have come un­der the scan­ner with the Au­rangabad bench of the Bom­bay high court point­ing out that they were cleared in vi­o­la­tion of the Ma­ha­rash­tra Wa­ter Re­sources Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity Act, 2005, and with­out an in­te­grated wa­ter plan.

The High Court, in an in­terim or­der on De­cem­ber 18, also asked the state to specif­i­cally in­ves­ti­gate 48 of th­ese projects where work had not so far started. The court also ob­served that the gov­er­nor’s di­rec­tives for re­moval of re­gional im­bal­ances while sanc­tion­ing ir­ri­ga­tion projects were mostly fol­lowed in the breach.

The court or­der once again ex­poses the ex­tent of the rot in the state’s wa­ter re­sources depart­ment over the last decade. The or­der comes in a pub­lic in­ter­est lit­i­ga­tion filed by Pradeep Pu­ran­dare, re­tired asso- ciate pro­fes­sor from the Wa­ter and Land Man­age­ment In­sti­tute (WALMI) and a whis­tle blower. The PIL had sought good wa­ter gov­er­nance by im­ple­men­ta­tion of the MWRRA Act.

The court said work had not started in th­ese 48 projects due to land ac­qui­si­tion is­sues, farm­ers’ op­po­si­tion, and pend­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ances and this pointed to ab­sence of scru­tiny while clear­ing the projects. Elab­o­rat­ing, the court pointed out how one project in Akola, Kan­chan­pura, was granted sanc­tion on the same day the ten­ders were is­sued on June 26, 2009. The work or­der was is­sued within five days but this was even be­fore the project de­sign was fi­nalised. In an­other project, Kikwi from Nashik, the court pointed out that ten­ders were is­sued even be­fore the project got ad­min­is­tra­tive ap­proval.

The court di­rected the state gov­ern­ment to in­quire into all ‘un­der con­struc­tion’ projects as the af­fi­davit by the state showed how in many of th­ese even though ac­tual work had not started, con­trac­tors were paid ad­vances. This in­cluded the Wasni medium project where work had not started but the con­trac­tor was paid Rs243 crore as ad­vance.

CON­TIN­UED ON P11

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