Regardless of CM’s phrase, Gosi canal stays non-starter

NAGPUR: Chief minister and union transport minister Nitin Gadkari had promised last year that the 55 km long Ghodazari branch canal of Gosikhurd project would be completed by end of 2018.
However, this is far from reality as irrigation officials said it would take three years and that too if sufficient funds were made available every year. The canal has the potential of irrigating 35,000 hectares in district. The canal and its distribution network need Rs 1,000 crore.

Activists of Jan Manch and other organizations visited the Ghodazari canal works under Sinchan Shodh Yatra on Sunday. Everywhere the works have stopped and the construction sites wear a forelorn look. JM Sheikh, superintending engineer of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), told the activists and mediapersons that many tenders had been scrapped following the (ACB) enquiry into Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam.

Sheikh said tenders for constructing the branch canal were floated in 2010. “They were later cancelled by the government following the enquiry. The canal received revised administrative approval (RAA) in September 2016. However, funds are yet to be sanctioned because the government has decided to allocate money to works that are half complete,” he added.

Ghodazari seems to be last priority for the government. While work has been done on the first 26 km of the canal in bits and parts, the remaining 29 km is still on the drawing board. “We have recently asked a central government agency Wapcos to do survey for laying a pipeline network. Water will be distributed through pipelines in this section,” said SR Mandwar, executive engineer.

Despite tall claims of state leaders regarding top priority given to Gosikhurd, the fact is that nobody knows how much more time it will take for completion. The Rs 18,500 crore project needs another Rs 8,200 crore. The budgetary allocation this years was only Rs 750 crore.

Funds crunch and cancelled tenders are not the only reasons for the delay. Govind Bhendarkar of Gosikhurd Prakalp Sangharsh Samiti showed the activists spots where a politically connected contractor was not starting work for reasons best known to him. The work is to be completed in June end but there is no sign of activity in mid-April. Sheikh merely said the contractor would be penalized.

Jan Manch president Sharad Patil, vice-president and VED president told Sheikh if no action was taken against such contractors they would file a public interest litigation (PIL) in high court.

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