India Today - - STATES -

the most ex­pen­sive ir­ri­ga­tion scheme any­where in the world. An­a­lysts point to project costs that could shoot up to Rs 1.6 lakh crore and O&M (oper­a­tion and main­te­nance) ex­penses of at least Rs 50,000 an acre a year. It will ex­ceed the to­tal agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion by the ir­ri­gated area of KLIS.

“In­dia is stuck in the old mind­set of sup­ply-side man­age­ment. Thou­sands of crores are spent fol­low­ing the idea that sup­ply­ing more wa­ter is good for farm­ers. Any crit­i­cism on costs is brushed aside as anti-farmer, anti­na­tional or anti-de­vel­op­ment,” says Dr Bik­sham Gu­jja, for­mer head of wa­ter pol­icy at WWF In­ter­na­tional and founder-chair­per­son, AgSri, a so­cial en­ter­prise work­ing on wa­ter pro­duc­tiv­ity. “Farm­ers need more income from each acre of land, not the most ex­pen­sive wa­ter to grow paddy. Farm­ers will hap­pily adopt a model that as­sures higher income and less wa­ter. This is de­mand-side man­age­ment, a well-es­tab­lished con­cept in many parts of the world, in­clud­ing trade­able per­mits for wa­ter. In­dia is head­ing to­wards a ma­jor wa­ter cri­sis and these ex­pen­sive projects are ac­cel­er­at­ing our de­scent.”

Many ex­perts fear the pos­si­bil­ity that KLIS will turn out to be an ex­pen­sive blunder, where the Te­lan­gana gov­ern­ment spend­ing as in­ter­est on com­mer­cial bor­row­ings much more than farm­ers get for their en­tire pro­duce.

The op­po­si­tion Congress is al­ready al­leg­ing large-scale cor­rup­tion. “KCR re­jigged the KLIS costs up­wards only to ben­e­fit his fam­ily. He has not even shared the project re­port with MLAs, as he fears it will raise ques­tions in the assembly,” al­leges Congress Leg­is­la­ture Party leader M.B. Vikra­marka.

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