Mumbai, April 16
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ pet watershed management scheme launched with much fanfare three years ago, is being dogged by corruption even as its efficacy comes in for doubt as the state’s rural areas grapple with a severe water shortage.
Opposition leaders say contractors under the Jalyukt Shivar, or watershed management programme under which ponds and aquefiers in villages are deepened to improve their retention capacities, have been awarded bypassing norms to those close to Fadnavis and the BJP.
Leaders of the opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party allege that government funds have been siphoned off. “Money has been siphoned off under the Jalyukt Shivar project and the works have not been carried out in many villages,” NCP leader Nawab Malik said. He pointed out that the Maharashtra government had been forced to send out water tankers to villages where projects under the watershed management scheme had been completed.
Echoing the NCP, the Congress party, too, is demanding that the Jalyukt Shivar programme be audited by experts.
The programme has already been criticised by environmentalists who say the deepening of ponds and aquifers has been carried out unscientifically in most places thus damaging the water table.
The BJP had promised to make Maharashtra’s villages tanker-free when it was elected to office in 2014.
However, this is yet to come true. According to information available from the state water resources department, the state government has already hired 611 tankers to supply water to 611 villages this month.
The number was just 373 tankers for 373 villages last summer. With the hot season just beginning there is a fear that the government will have to press in more tankers as more villages run out of water.
Meanwhile, the government has decided to press ahead with the watershed management scheme. Fadnavis told reporters here last weekend that 11,247 out of 16,621 villages where the programme had been undertaken had become self-reliant in water. The programme would be completed in the remaining villages by the end of this year, the CM said.
The government plans to spend Rs 1,500 crore on the programme this year, Fadnavis added.