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Major Time, Costs Overruns in UP Irrigation Projects: CAG Report

The cost of Bansagar Canal and Lahchura Dam projects jumped from Rs 330.19 to Rs 3,419.37 crore during 1996-97 to 2020-21 and from Rs 7.04 crore to Rs 328.30 crore during 1978-79 to 2014-15 respectively.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has found serious deficiencies in the performance of the Bansagar Canal Project and the modernisation of the Chaudhary Charan Singh Lahchura Dam Project in Uttar Pradesh from 2014-15 to 2020-21.

The audit report, which assessed the efficiency and effectiveness of the two projects and was sent to the Yogi Adityanath government on March 3 and tabled on August 8, revealed time and cost overruns with the objectives not achieved.

Bansagar Project is a joint venture between Uttar Pradesh (UP) Bihar and Madhya Pradesh (MP) under which Bansagar Dam was constructed on the Sone river in MP. UP is entitled to utilise 43,560 mcft of water from Bansagar reservoir.

UP’s Bansagar Canal Project (BCP) aimed to construct canal systems in UP to utilise 34,008 million cubic feet (mcft) of water from Bansagar Dam to increase the irrigation intensity of nine canal systems from 85% to 150% in cultivable command area (CCA) of 2.32 lakh hectares in Prayagraj and Mirzapur districts.

Approved by Central Water Commission in January 1994, the project’s cost escalated to Rs 3,419.37 crore during 1996-97 to 2020-21 from the estimated Rs 330.19 crore. Due to slow progress, the scheduled completion date in 2004 was revised four times and the project was commissioned in July 2018.

Even after the project’s commissioning date, BCP authorities demanded 5,782 mcft (17%)-16,476 (48%) water from MP as against the target of 34,008 mcft without providing a reason.

Moreover, BCP didn’t even get the decreased water supply and received only 1,680 mcft (5%)-2,921 mcft (9%). Consequently, additional irrigation intensity fell short of its target by 44%-45% in Rabi and 325-33% in Kharif seasons.

Lahchura Dam provides water to the Dhasan Canal System (DCS), which has a CCA of 97,169 hectares in Mahoba and Hamirpur districts. Lahchura Dam also receives water from Pahari Dam. Both dams had become old and outdated with the shutters intended to control water flow not working properly during rains.

The Lahchura Dam and Pahari Dam Projects were approved in February 1979 and February 2008 at an estimated cost of Rs 7.04 crore and Rs 76.68 crore respectively. However, the cost of both projects escalated with Rs 328.30 crore spent on Lahchura Dam during 1978-79 to 2014-15 and Rs 354.20 crore spent on Pahari Dam during 2009-10 to 2017-18. Due to slow work, they were completed in March 2015 and March 2018 respectively.

The CAG noticed that the objectives of both BCP and Lahchura and Pahari Dam Projects were not achieved—augmentation of water availability in the canal network, creation of additional irrigation intensity and change in cropping pattern.

The audit revealed deficient planning for remodeling of canal systems, insufficient storage capacity of dams, inadequate supply of water in canals and consequently non-operation of canals for full cropping period.

Similarly, there was a shortage of water supply to the DCS due to the inadequate capacity of Lahchura and Pahari dams. The canal irrigation in Kharif was provided to only 455-2,153 hectares (3-15%) against the target of 14,575 hectares.

Both BCP and Lahchura Dam Project lacked planning and execution. “In BCP, issues like the current availability of water in the canal systems and capacity enhancement of existing canal systems were either not addressed or inadequate provisions were made in the DPRs due to which envisaged objective of enhancing irrigation intensity of the canal could not be achieved,” the report reads.

The scope for modernisation of Lahchura and Pahari Dam Projects was “limited to replacing the old structures of the dams”.

The insufficient water storage capacity of Lahchura and Pahari dams was not addressed. Resultantly, the project would not be able to provide canal irrigation in the entire command area of 97,169 hectares. The scope for construction in both projects could not be firmed up and kept changing during the course of the execution.

Therefore, the projects could be completed after a delay of more than 14 years (BCP) and six years (Lahchura Dam Project) along with huge cost overruns.

In BCP, the provision of cost escalation in labour, petroleum, oil and lubricants, and materials was included belatedly after NIT and technical bid evaluation. Ineligible contractors were awarded work in the Lahchura Dam Project.”

The audit also noticed “unjustified payment of price adjustment, irregular grant of interest-free advances to contractors, unauthorised sanction of variations in the quantities of the contract, grant of time extension without proper justifications and inadequate quality control”.

Neither the envisaged connectivity between canals was achieved nor were canal networks maintained regularly.

Besides, the command area of the canal systems was also not developed, which restricted the utilisation of created irrigation intensity.

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