Even as the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the Maharashtra Government is ready to file a charge-sheet with big political names for 12 corruption-ridden dams in Konkan region of Maharashtra, an analysis of the dam development here raises bigger questions.
Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC), in charge of planning, building and operating Irrigation dams in Konkan does not have a single fully completed Major or Medium Irrigation project to its credit till date.
After spending over Rs 6,000 Crores and when the balance cost of ongoing projects is over Rs 11,000 crores, there has been no significant increase in Irrigated Area of Konkan. An expert and past Director General of WALMI says, “In Konkan, the submergence area of dams may be bigger than the actual irrigated area”.
However, the large dams keep getting pushed for irrigation in Konkan for decades, for 34 years as in the case of Talamba Dam in Sindhudurg, which is just 20% complete after spending Rs 142 Crores. Dams have been sanctioned and work started without acquiring lands, without compensating and rehabilitating project affected people and without securing mandatory Environmental and Forest Clearances (which is a Punishable Offence) in a majority Eco Sensitive Area of the Western Ghats!
Dams should not have been started without all of these basic requirements in place and in any case not in Eco Sensitive Areas.
Corruption is rife, several projects are stalled and in limbo, critical biodiversity habitats are being lost and generations of project affected people live in state of fear and confusion.
But is it worth taking up such large irrigation projects in Konkan?
Experts, agricultural scientists, past engineers and even politicians agree that Large Irrigation Projects are not suited for the rainfall, topography, soil and cropping profile of Konkan. That is also what past experience proves.
Are we ready to raise fundamental questions about the appropriateness and viability of Large Dams in Konkan?
Are we ready for an honest course correction?
Are we ready to scrap projects like Talamba or Kal-Kumbhe Hydropower Dams which have no future, rather than throwing more good money in the name of sunk bad money, as current KIDC Executive Director argues?
Konkan has many site-specific irrigation options which are more appropriate, viable, cheaper, faster and environmentally and socially acceptable than large dams.
(A report from Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP on the Irrigation Development in Konkan, with a focus on Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation of the Government of Maharashtra provides an overview and analysis.
The report is based on several site visits, discussions with farmers, engineers, politicians and experts in Konkan and rest of Maharashtra.)