Sufferings of nearly 100,000 families and spending millions of rupees in rehabilitation, besides annihilation of more than 50,000 hectares of forest cover and a long wait of 33 years have so far contributed virtually nothing to the state’s irrigation infrastructure. In order to use the Narmada basin -- Madhya Pradesh shares 87 per cent of its 98795-sq-km area, where the river feeds its 25 districts -- all that the government has done is creating a company named Narmada Basin Projects Company Limited (NBPCL) which is yet to come out of drawing board.
Consequently, only 6,506,000 (2011 figures) hectares of its total 15,044,000 hectares sown area is under irrigation. Scarcity of funds and resources would stand in the way of completion of all large, medium and minor projects that would require a whopping Rs 30,000 crore or more, even as state authorities go by the chief minister’s commitment to complete them by 2020.
“During the last 33 years, only a company namely NBPCL under Narmada Valley Development Authority has been floated last year, which is yet to be functional,” an insider source in the government told Business Standard. “Only 30-33 per cent arable land in Madhya Pradesh falls under irrigation,” he added.
State authorities, if insiders are to be believed, have hardly made any progress in using the water allocated by Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal in 1979. Reasons are many but prime among them is red-tapism. Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) was constituted in 1969 to adjudicate upon the water dispute. The Tribunal investigated the matters and awarded 18.5 million acre fit (MAF) water to Madhya Pradesh out of total 27 MAF available in the river by 2024.
To utilise the same, the state has to construct 29 large, 135 medium and 3000 minor irrigation projects or dams. Till date, the state has started work on only 7 large, 116 medium and has completed 1032 minor irrigation projects. As of now only seven irrigation projects have been completed which have added 3.89 lakh hectares irrigation capacity, seven more are under construction which will add additional 7 lakh hectares under irrigation cover with an expense of Rs 20,000 crore. The rest are yet on papers and will add an additional 294,952 hectares with an additional investment of Rs 11,833 crore.
“There is no dearth of funds with grants from New Delhi, Nabard re-finance easily available to the state,” said the insider. “But differences between Water Resource Department and Narmada Valley Development Authority are prime reasons for delay.”
The BJP government has created a company, namely NBPCL, under Narmada Valley Development Authority in 2011 so that it can share projects from state-owned water resource department (WRD)which is yet to be functional.
The company has been entrusted with the task of surveying for large, medium and minor irrigation projects. As many as 300 detailed project reports are ready for various irrigation projects that would create an additional irrigated area of 142,306 hectares.
“The NBPCL was formulated with an objective to work independently with a contingent of professionals, but WRD people want maximum work on their hands, and that is hampering the speed of project surveys and construction,” a source in Narmada Valley Development Authority told this newspaper. “More importantly it needs more professionals at each level”.
“No large project on Narmada River has been completed so far, work is still on at Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar project. Only few tributary projects like Tawa, Kolar, Man and Barna have been completed for irrigation,” said the source. “The Centre aggravates our problem as ministry of forest and environment keeps on throwing spanner to various projects and single clearances took 4-5 years.”
Narmada is the main artery of the state that covers 1312 km stretch from Amarkantak in MP to the Arabian sea.
Its tributaries are drying fast and with the government not charting out concrete plans to make the 29 large projects that will utilize majority of the awarded water of 11.36 MAF, the proposed 135 medium and 3000 minor projects seems like a distant dream.