189 Maha irrigation projects were cleared flouting law: HC
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.
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