‘Big dams only to provide kickbacks’
Posted August 27, 2016on:
The objective of the Indira Sagar Project (ISP) is to provide net irrigation in 1.23 lakh hectare in Khandwa, Khargone and Badwani districts of Madhya Pradesh. However, the works of Phase I and Phase II of ISP to provide irrigation in 62,200 hectare were not completed even after incurring an expenditure of Rs 3,102.89 crore. Penalty of Rs 118.78 crore was not levied on the turnkey contractors for shortfalls ranging from 16.65 per cent to 96.45 per cent in completion of milestones of three ISP works. Inclusion of unwarranted item of transmission line from ISP, Canal Head Power House to Reducing Distance (RD) of Km 79.80 of ISP Main Canal resulted in undue benefit of Rs 75.19 crore to the turnkey contractor.
These observations of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in his Report relating to the Government of Madhya Pradesh for the year ended March 2015 only reinforce the argument of an eminent economist that big dams serve only to provide kickbacks to the lobby of engineers, bureaucrats, contractors and their political godfathers.
Prof H M Desarda, a former member of the Maharashtra State Planning Board, says that large dams cannot always provide water to thirsty people and parched lands. He told media persons in Bhopal some time back that of the 4291 large dams, 1529 are in Maharashtra, 1093 in Madhya Pradesh and 537 in Gujarat. Yet, “these are the three states which suffer from the most pervasive and recurrent water-scarcity.”
Prof. Desarda says that these dams are built “solely on account of the lure of kickbacks to the lobby of engineers, bureaucrats, contractors and their political godfathers.”
Barely one per cent of India’s annual water resource is needed for providing potable water to a thousand million Indians. The country’s annual water yield from the precipitation is 4,000 billion cubic metres. Still, millions of hapless women have to traverse three to five km each day to fetch a few pots of water “which we elite casually flush each time we use out toilet.”
Talking of the misuse of water, he said that 15,000 tons of water is used to produce a ton of paddy in Punjab; to produce a litre of liquor or soft drink like Coca Cola, or a kilo of sugar or a kilo of paper, up to 1000-fold fresh water is required. The same is true for most of the industries. In short, 90 per cent of India’s fresh water resources are pre-empted by these crops, produces and the “stupid lifestyle we have adopted in the name of modernisation, growth and globalisation.”
Only a national movement for the people’s right to resources can rescue the water resource planning and policy from the “clutches of the ruling coterie which is siphoning off billions of rupees by skimming water”, Prof Desarda asserted.