Nagpur: Lack of adequate irrigation facilities in Vidarbha is one of the key reasons for agrarian distress in the region where a large number of projects remain incomplete despite huge spending for several decades.
Bembla irrigation project in Yavatmal district in Western Vidarbha is one such venture which remains a picture of total neglect and bureaucratic apathy, according to local activists.
The Maharashtra Government has now decided to review the progress of all pending irrigation projects, including Bembla, in the region which over the years has earned the dubious distinction of being a "suicide belt".
Repeated crop failure due to inadequate irrigation resources and mounting debt are the main reasons for farmer suicides.
As the first step, Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis, who hails from Nagpur, visited Gosikhurd irrigation project in Bhandara district on August 16 and is expected to review Bembla later this month, official sources said here.
Bembla was supposed to change the face of agriculture in Yavatmal, but this has not happened.
Though a whopping Rs 1,857 crore has been spent on the project in the last 25 years, the farmers of Babhulgaon, Kalamb, Ralegaon and Maregaon talukas of Yavatmal are still waiting for its completion and benefits it will accrue.
The reservoir has massive storage capacity, but there is no canal to distribute the water to parched fields of Yavatmal, the epicentre of farmer suicides not only in Vidarbha but in Maharashtra.
Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) has claimed Bembla has been nearly completed and has created irrigation potential of 49,000 hectares in 177 villages.
But in reality, a mere 1,200 hectares of land is actually getting some water from this project. Massive seepage from the dam is damaging the agricultural land around it, according to the NGOs active in the region.
Incomplete main canal, sub-standard construction of lining of the main channel, growth of trees & shrubs in branch canals, no trace of construction of distributaries, among others, are some of the major findings by volunteers of a group of NGOs who visited the site.
These include Vidarbha Sinchan Shodh Yatra --a campaign on irrigation projects by Loknayak Bapuji Aney Smarak Samiti, Jan Manch, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Vidarbha Economic Development Council (VED).The project is situated on Bembla river in Godavari basin near Khadaksawanga village in Babhulgaon tehsil. It started with first administrative approval for Rs 190.36 crore in 1992 and the construction began in 1993.
The project was supposed to irrigate an area of about 53,968 hectares in Yavatmal. Of this, 47,000 hectares was proposed to be irrigated by the canal system and 6,968 hectares by atomised drip irrigation.
The construction of main canal on right bank with a length of 113 kms, three branch canals and 79 minor ones, 15 distributaries and 33 distribution networks had been completed, according to officials of VIDC.
The construction cost has escalated over the years - from Rs 190.36 crore in 1992 to Rs 2,176.28 crore in 2009 - they said.
The latest administrative review is pending before VIDC, which is estimated to put the cost at Rs 3,622 crore.