17 - 01 - 2019

Clean Ganga needs clear procedures

The Ganga cleaning has cost the nation Rs 7304 crore”, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) noted in its observations. It says the money has gone waste.The expenses were done, as per NGT from 2015 to 2017. It is not restricted to Ganga. Most such water and river projects have not been able to achieve the objective.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its audit of national projects of central ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation from 2008 to 2017 has noted that of the 16 national projects only five could come under implementation. These five were conceptualised from 1975 to 1983. 

Thus delays are part of the process leading to enormous cost escalation. The original cost of the five projects were Rs 3530 crore. The CAG says the current cost estimates are Rs 86,172.23 crore – an escalation of almost 22 times or 2341 percent. The shortfall ranged from eight to 99 percent.

 In February 2008, the central government approved a scheme of 16 major national water resource development and irrigation projects that were languishing due to various constraints like land acquisition, inter-state coordination, financial constraints and issues relating to rehabilitation and resettlement of affected persons.

The fundamental objective of the five schemes was to ensure coordinated and focused action to expedite their execution. “The performance audit brought out that the objective remained unachieved though an expenditure of Rs 13,299.12 crore had been incurred till March 2017”.

The CAG does not say if there is any corruption. It speaks of poor contract management and undue assistance to contractors from public funds.

The projects aim at creating 25.10 lakh hectare irrigation potential. So far a mere 5.36 lakh hectatre (37 percent) is being utilized. The projects are — Indira Sagar Polavaram project (ISP) in Andhra Pradesh, Gosikhurd irrigation project in Maharashtra, Shahpur Khandi Dam (SKD) project in Punjab, Saryu Nahar Pariyojana (SNP) in Uttar Pradesh and Teesta Barrage Project in West Bengal. Despite its poor implementation Teesta project has led to tension between India and Bangladesh. 

Now power was generated of the envisaged 1236.50 mega watt.

The remaining 11 projects with estimated irrigation capacity of 10.48 lakh hectare are at different stages of approval. The approval for the five projects took 17 to 65 months - over 12 years. The delays were due to inaccurate survey and investigation by the state agencies.

For the Teesta project though proposal for partial land acquisition was submitted in September 2012, it could not get West Bengal government approval till March 2017. The proposal for 2084 hectare was yet to be forwarded by the Teesta authority.

The process is similar in ISP in Andhra, SKD in Punjab and SNP in UP due to various administrative weaknesses and inability of states to reach a figure for rehabilitation due to submergence of villages. In the ISP, the Andhra government took five years to reject the farmers demand for cancellation of some land acquisition. The SNP also suffered for similar reasons.

 It was found that funds to contractors were released beyond agreement conditions. Various codal provisions were also not adhered to leading to financial costs almost in each of the projects.

The CAG does not say if there is any corruption. It speaks of poor contract management and undue assistance to contractors from public funds. Payments to them over and above the terms of agreement “was irregular”, it observes and says, “This amounted to financial assistance to contractors from public funds”.

Such assistance cost the exchequer at least Rs 102 crore and cost escalation of Rs 225 crore on papers. The actual may be much more as “there is no assurance as to the transparency and objectivity of the process of selection of contractors, award of works and their execution”, says CAG. 

The revisions of agreements for relief and rehabilitation cost Rs 1332 crore and Rs 82.35 crore in interest payments due to delays.

There are major lacunae in the monitoring by state agencies and shortfall in technical inspection. 

In the Sarayu project, excavated earth of canals was dumped in a haphazard manner resulting in flowing it back to the canals during rains decreasing rate of water flow by 25 to 58 percent.

In Goshikhurd, catchment area treatment necessary for safety dam, maintenance and protection of downstream areas were neglected for eight years. The retaining walls were constructed in a defective manner leading to its collapse in the middle of the canal during rains.