India’s biggest thermal power station is located in the Chandrapur district of Vidarbha in Maharastra and yes, it is ironical that there are millions of village that are yet to see what electricity is all about as they have lived without electricity since time immemorial. This is the reality of the growth story of India, which dreams to become the Super Power, as most of the political leaders are claiming including our corrupt Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station (CSTPS) is the biggest thermal power station of the nation and yet, last year had to shut down six out of the seven units because of depleted water level at Irai Dam, which incidentally also is the only source of drinking water supply in Chandrapur district. While none of the Chief Ministers of Maharastra has ever paid any attention towards the grave inadequacy of water for irrigation and drinking water for poor farmers of Vidarbha, the Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, currently the State Energy Minister has decided to connect Irai Dam with Gosikhurd Dam in Bhandara, to tackle the water crisis for CSPTS. The point is how the water would be brought from Gosikhurd Dam to Irai Dam, no details are available but the ambitious project, if executed, will further deprive farmers, water for irrigation.
The actual work of Gosikhurd Lift Irrigation project, which was granted administrative clearance way back in 1981-82, three decades ago, was suppose to start in October 1998 (17 years after the clearance). The 194.45 crores contract on the ambitious project on Waiganga River in Bhandara district of Vidarbha region was awarded to HCC – Hindustan Construction Company as per newspaper report on 19th May 1998. The Original Cost of the project was pegged at Rs. 372 crore and by 1995 it had already escalated to Rs. 2,091 crore, an increase to the tune of 560 % in 14 years period. None of the Chief Ministers of Maharastra has really pushed this ambitious project at a war footing urgency, while the farmers of Vidarbha kept suffering water for irrigation woes since the last 30 years... even now, the situation is the same as it was in 1981-82! Nothing has really changed in the last 30 Years under Congress Rule!
In 2009, as per Suren Hire, the then Executive Engineer of Gosikhurd Dam said that the dam requires 238 meters before water can be sent through the two canals, the Left Bank and the Right Bank. To do this, the authorities have to shut down the 200 cusec m of water discharge to allow the water level to 238 meters. This would lead to the submergence of 14 villages in the region. Another official had stated that government’s political will is leading to the Command Area to face water scarcity even though both the canals are ready to cater to the irrigation needs of the farmers in the area.
The poor farmers have been bluffed and cheated from time to time ever since the project was commissioned to benefit all those who are involved in the 30-Year Scam... when the Dam water level was at 236 meters, experts said only when the height will be raised to 239 meters, water can be released to both the canals... however, on 5th July 2011, the Chief Secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad of Maharastra has promised to ensure that level of water behind the Gosikhurd Dam is raised from 239 to 242 meters this season, so that water can be released through the Left Bank and Right Bank Canals after September to irrigate agriculture land in Command Area of the project.
One really wonders that while there is not sufficient water for the farmers to get for irrigating their agricultural lands and drinking water for the district population, the Deputy CM Ajit Pawar’s latest decision (4th August 2011) to divert water to Irai Dam for Power Generation at CSTPS will further deprive the Command Area Farmers water for irrigation... While the Lift Irrigation project was inaugurated in 2009 by none other than Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, the officials concerned express their inability to release water from the Lift Irrigation Scheme as the canals are still INCOMPLETE (after 30 long years, IMAGINE?)!!! Water was only released on the day of the inauguration to fool the farmers of the region and since that fateful day, the canals have been lying dry... since the last two years.
With less rainfall this year in Vidarbha region, farmers are badly in need of water to sow paddy in the Bhandara region but who really cares for Irrigation Infrastructure of the nation? While there are more Thermal Power Plants than any other States in Vidarbha Region (89 more private projects are waiting for clearance from CM Chavan), only 10 % of Agricultural Land gets water for irrigation. IRONY or CALLOUSNESS?
REASONS FOR DELAY:
All the reasons mentioned below have pushed the ambitious project for 15 long years in 1998:
We are now in 2011 (exactly 30 Years after the project was cleared in 1981-82) and still the canals are without water for farmers:
Inadequate Allocations of Finance by successive State Government (Fault of respective CMs since 1981 to 2011);
Inaction by the region’s politicians (yes, no one cares about the farmers’ plight and needs);
Clearance from MoEF (the drama always continues when any project is to benefit the poor lot);
Problems of Rehabilitation (always a big issue as Govt pays a pittance and never provide enough compensation and place for proper rehabilitation);
ESCALATION OF PROJECT COST OF GOSIKHURD LIFT IRRIGATION PROJECT IN 30 YEARS' PERIOD: 1800 %
1981-82 - Rs. 372 Crore (original project cost sanctioned)
1995 - Rs. 2,091 Crore
2011 - Rs. 7,000 Crores & still counting (as the Canals' construction are still incomplete)