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Delay, cost over-run plague 16 major water projects

New Delhi : The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has said that 16 major multi-purpose water projects launched over a decade ago are nowhere near completion, with as many as 11 of these projects yet to commence.

Only five projects, with an estimated irrigation potential of 25.10 lakh hectares, have been taken up for implementation and even these projects suffer from shortfall in physical progress ranging from eight per cent to 99 per cent, the CAG said.

A report by the national auditor, presented in Parliament recently, said the main reasons for the inordinate delays in the projects was administrative delays, non-adherence to codal provisions and rules stipulated in the relevant works manuals for execution of such works, poor contract management and lack of effective and timely monitoring.

The stinging comments from the CAG come in the backdrop of the current Government's enhanced focus on improvement in irrigation infrastructure across the country.

"In February 2008, the Government of India approved a scheme of national projects where under 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 poor implementation of the schemes was adversely impacting strategic national interests. The fundamental objective of the scheme was to ensure coordinated and focussed 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", the CAG report said.

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 project and Gosikhurd project - have alone registered a cost escalation of Rs 49,840 crore over the previous escalation, the CAG report noted.

The remaining three projects have already overshot their approved completion time and none of them is near completion. While shortfall in terms of physical progress ranged up to 99 per cent, showing extreme apathy in the five projects under implementation, the overall cost escalation of 2341 per cent threatens the economic viability of the projects.

"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 detailed project reports, ensuring statutory clearances for the project sites and administrative delays in land acquisitions, which resulted in additional cost of Rs 903.67 crore".

"This was compounded by inefficient rehabilitation and resettlement measures that further hindered progress of the projects. This resulted in additional cost of Rs 1,331.91 crore due to revisions in agreements and Rs 82.35 crore on account of payment of interest arising from delayed payment of compensation", the report said.

Lastly, 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, 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", the CAG recommended.

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