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EDITORIAL

Water Resources Ministry Rapped by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) for major project delays, cost overruns

Arun Kumar Das

(Arun Kumar Das can be contacted at akdas2005@gmail.com)

Teesta Barrage, Indira Sagar Poolavaram and Gosikhand irigation projects are among five major water projects having strategic national importance that are way behind the completion mark, despite incurring expenditure over Rs 13,000 crore since 2008, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).

Taking note of the cost escalation due to delays, the national auditor has observed that original cost estimate of the five projects was Rs 3530 cr while the current cost estimate is Rs 86,172 cr.

Coming down heavily on Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, the CAG in its latest report observed that the poor implementation of the important projects was adversely impacting strategic national interests and not been able to reach a stage where the benefits of power generation, drinking water and reservoir creation can be delivered.

The five national water projects which are nowhere near the completion due to various reasons including poor contract management and administrative delays are Indira Sagar Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh, Gosikhand irrigation project in Maharashtra, Shahipur Kandi dam in Punjab, Saryu Nahar Pariyojna in Uttar Pradesh and Teesta Barrage in West Bengal.

The primary objective of national projects is to enhance agricultural productivity by creating irrigation potential and water availability in covered areas.

CAG noted that the shortfall in terms of physical progress in different components of the projects ranged from eight to 99 per cent in the five projects under implementation along with an overall cost escalation of 2,341 per cent that threatened the economic viability of the projects.

In February 2008, the Centre approved a scheme of national projects whereunder it identified 16 major water resource development and irrigation projects that were under the Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) but were languishing due to various constraints and hurdles including land acquisition, inter-State coordination, financial constraints and issues relating to rehabilitation and re-settlement of affected population.

The audit covered the period from April 2008 to March 2017 and examined the records and documents at Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and the Central Water Commission (CWC) as well as in the States of Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. The audit also visited selected sites for joint inspection to arrive at conclusions.

The poor implementation of the schemes was adversely impacting strategic national interests, CAG stated in the report tabled in Parliament.

Fundamental objective of the scheme was to ensure coordinated and focused action to expedite their execution and ensure their early completion. A performance audit of the scheme brought out that this fundamental objective remained unachieved though an expenditure of Rs 13,299.12 crore had been incurred on the five projects as of March 2017.
Out of the 16 national projects, only five projects with estimated Irrigation Potential of 25.10 lakh hectare were under implementation. In these five projects, 14.53 lakh hectare irrigation potential has been created but a mere 5.36 lakh hectare (37 per cent) irrigation potential is being utilised.

CAG has observed that the remaining 11 projects with estimated irrigation potential of 10.48 lakh hectare are yet to commence and are at different stages of approval.

The cost escalation in the five projects before their inclusion in the scheme was Rs 32,802 crore. However, since their inclusion as National Projects, two projects — Indira Sagar Polavaram and Gosikhurd, had alone registered an escalation of Rs 49,840 crore over the previous escalation. Remaining three projects have already overshot their approved completion time and none of them is near completion.

CAG has pointed that the tardy implementation and cost escalation was attributable to management failures and deficiencies in terms of non-adherence to codal provisions relating to survey and investigations that are essential ingredients for preparation of 3 detailed project reports, ensuring statutory clearances for the project sites and administrative delays in land acquisitions.

This was compounded by inefficient Rehabilitation and Resettlement measures that further hindered progress of the projects.

Deviation from codal provisions and tender/agreement terms provided no assurance as to the transparency and objectivity of the process of selection of contractors, award of works and their execution.
In none of the five projects under implementation had any proposal for Command Area Development works been sent to Central Water Commission for approval.

CAG has also pointed out that the lack of adequate and effective monitoring and timely action to deal with breaches and damages to created infrastructure both contributed to the poor progress of works as well as inadequate maintenance of assets already created. In view of their national importance, CAG has recommended that these projects may be taken up in a mission mode with nodal officers at the central level to effectively monitor the progress of the projects under implementation and remove bottlenecks in coordination with the State authorities. (IANS)

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