Mumbai: In a big relief to drought-hit Maharashtra, the Union ministry of water resources on Tuesday agreed to fund 132 incomplete irrigation projects worth Rs.7,188 crore in 14 districts.
Union water resources minister Uma Bharti told chief minister Devendra Fadnavis at a review meeting in Mumbai that the centre would consider these 132 projects in 14 farm suicide-prone districts as special projects and make sure they are completed to augment the irrigation potential of the districts.
A Maharashtra water resources department official, who attended the meeting, said on condition of anonymity that 98 of these projects worth Rs.4,098 crore are from six districts of Vidarbha and the remaining 34 worth Rs.3,090 crore are from eight districts of Marathwada.
“Maharashtra government has urged the centre to bear 90% of the total cost of Rs.28,500 crore to complete 219 irrigation projects spread over nearly 200 drought-prone tehsils. To begin with, the centre has agreed to provide Rs.7,188 crore towards 132 of these projects,” the official said.
The centre has also agreed, in principle, to complete 26 large irrigation projects in Maharashtra under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) in the next four years. The former has allotted Rs.80,000 crore for AIBP to be used over four years, including the current fiscal, to complete 89 large projects across the country.
“The centre may also fund these projects under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, where the centre would bear 60% of the project cost and the state would provide the balance 40%,” said the official.
Maharashtra has the highest number of large, medium, and minor dams in the country at 2,559, of which 1,845 are large projects. Yet, only 18% of the state’s total cultivable land of 22.5 million hectares has so far been provided irrigation, leaving more than 80% of the state’s nearly 14 million farmers at the mercy of rainfall.
Writing an opinion piece in The Indian Express on 25 April, Ashok Gulati, chair professor for agriculture at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), pointed out that between 2002-03 and 2012, Maharashtra spent more than Rs.1.18 trillion to create irrigation potential of 8.9 lakh hectares.
Of this, only 5.9 lakh hectares of irrigation potential got utilized, taking the cost of irrigation in Maharashtra to Rs.20 lakh per hectare, one of the costliest in the country.