Bembla - A project nobody wants to complete

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Feb 2018 09:26:50



By Rajendra Diwe,

Fate of ambitious Bembla irrigation project, hoped to change destiny of farmers of suicide prone Yavatmal district, appears to be in limbo as despite regular progress monitoring by Chief Minister’s War Room, the project has not moved an inch beyond the findings of first Vidarbha Sinchan Shodh Yatra recorded 30 months ago.

The dismal scenario on the ground actually reveals total apathy of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) officials, contractors and other agencies, who appeared to have simply vanished in thin air as they have no justification for hundreds of crores spent for the works done only on paper. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Water Resources Development Minister Nitin Gadkari are pouring money to complete the irrigation projects of backward Vidarbha region, but the second visit of Sinchan Shodh Yatra once again proved shocking indifference of the officials, contractors in fulfilling vision of political leadership.
Instead of becoming a major source of irrigation, Bembla project is embodiment of what is wrong with our irrigation sector. Missing canals, cosmetic lining works, absence of distribution channels have reduced Bembla dam water to dead stock.

The project whose original cost was Rs 190.36 crore and whose present revised administrative cost is Rs 3,622 crore or close to 1800% rise over the original cost, failed to deliver any tangible good, because of flawed planning process, unimaginative execution and apparent greed of all concerned to complete paper-work instead of actual ground work.

The volunteers of Vidarbha Sinchan Shodh Yatra organised by Loknayak Bapuji Aney Smarak Samiti, Jan Manch, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Vidarbha Economic Development Council (VED) who had visited the site of Bembla River Project on August 23, 2015 along with Ralegaon MLA Dr Ashok Ramaji Uikey were shell shocked to witness sheer waste of precious public money at that time.

On that day, the volunteers observed as to how the unholy nexus of greedy contractors, pliable VIDC Engineers and their unscrupulous political masters had shattered the dream of farmers in Yavatmal District to get water for irrigation. In their first visit the volunteers found Bembla River Project of VIDC was yet another example of irrigation project in Vidarbha where planning has gone horribly wrong and malpractices were self-evident. After spending Rs 1,857 crores in last 25 years, the farmers in neighbouring Babhulgaon, Kalamb, Ralegaon, Maregaon tehsils in Yavatmal district were struggling for their survival. Ironically, the reservoir has massive storage capacity, but there is no distribution channels to take water to parched fields of Yavatmal district where thousands of farmers’ suicides have been recorded in last decade.

After two and half years, when Sinchan Shodh Yatra revisited the site on February 4, 2018, they observed, much to their astonishment, that nothing on ground has changed. The agrarian crisis has worsened and hopes from Bembla project appears to be a distant dream.

On August 23, 2015, the VIDC officials and Engineers claimed 100 percent completion of the irrigation project and claimed that Bembla has created irrigation potential of 49,000 Ha in 177 villages of Yavatmal district. But in reality, mere 1,200 hectares of land was actually getting some water from this project, raising a big question-mark over veracity of claims made by official machinery which was ready to mislead one and all.

Afraid to face such probing questions and self-evident ground reality, this time, no VIDC official turned up to give official account about the progress of this project. VIDC officials sheepishly claimed that they did not receive ‘proper communication from the members of Sinchan Shodh Yatra Samiti.’

After the visit of Sinchan Shodh Yatra on August 23, 2015; Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis took the findings very seriously and personally visited the Bembla River Project Site within weeks and directed government officials to review and submit a report on the measures taken by the administration to rehabilitate those affected by the delay in completion of Bembla Irrigation Project. He promised funds for developing infrastructure in the region and further said that if the irrigation potential is enhanced, farmers will reap maximum benefits.

During the visit in 2015, MLA Dr Uikey stated that the project had been taken by Government on War Room. A committee of 29 MLAs had been formed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the Government was committed to complete the project by 2017. This time even MLA Dr Uikey kept himself away from the Sinchan Shodh Yatra. Despite repeated efforts made by organisers, Dr Uikey did not join the Yatra.

On August 23, 2015, VIDC officials including Executive Engineer, Deputy Engineer, Section Engineer, resorted to passing the buck and indulged in blame game. Peeved farmers were up in arms and lashed out at officials and exposed their falsehoods. On February 4, 2018, the VIDC officials kept themselves away from the Yatra telling a reason of ‘no proper communication from the members of Sinchan Shodh Yatra Samiti.’

The major findings on August 23, 2015, including massive Seepage from the dam which is damaging the agricultural land around project, incomplete main canal, sub-standard construction of lining of main canal, growth of trees, shrubs in branch canals, no trace of construction of distributories, minors etc. have not changed during the revisit on February 4, 2018.

Bembla Project is situated on Bembla river near Khadaksawanga village in Babhulgaon Tehsil in Yavatmal District in Godavari basin of Wardha Sub division. The project started with first administrative approval for just Rs 190.36 crores (as per the official record of Government of India). Interestingly, VIDC officials in their note handed over to Yatra on August 23, 2015 had mentioned the original cost finalised in the year 1992 as Rs 19.036 crores. Construction of dam started in 1993. The project has been planned to irrigate the area of about 53,968 hectares of land in Yavatmal. Out of command area, 47,000 hectares land was proposed to be irrigated by the canal system and 6,968 hectares was proposed to be irrigated by Automised Drip Irrigation under Lift Irrigation Scheme.

On August 23, 2015, the then Executive Engineer D.J.Rathod had made an astonishing claim that earthen dam and gated spillway work was completed way back in June 2007. The construction work of main canal on right bank with length of 113 kms, three branch canals, 15 distributories, 79 minor canals and 33 distribution networks was also completed, VIDC officer had claimed. As usual, the construction cost has been escalated from Rs 19.036 crores (VIDC officials) or 190.36 crores (Government’s record) to Rs 622.48 crores in 2004 with first revised administrative approval.

The cost of the project rose to Rs 1,278.98 crores in Second revised administrative approval in 2006 and almost doubled to Rs 2,176.28 crores in 2009. The proposal for fourth revised administrative approval has been pending with VIDC for Rs 3,622 crores in 2015. Executive Engineer also claimed that the earth work of 113 kms of main canal was completed and the concrete lining work of the canal has also been completed. Even a cursory visit along with distribution channels is sufficient to know the falsity in these claims as practically no linings exist beyond few hundred meters and even canal suddenly vanishes into farmland where agricultural crop is standing.

On February 4, 2018 the Yatra noted, “The main canal was in shameful condition. No traces of branch canals, minor canals and distribution networks could be found.”
On August 23, 2015, The volunteers of Sinchan Shodh Yatra and MLA Dr Uikey were shocked to see that the construction of concrete lining of main canal was completed only upto 7 kms from the dam and no sign of construction could be seen beyond first 7 kms. The Sinchan Shodh Yatra tracked the canal upto 45 kms and witnessed sub-standard construction of lining wall, which goes missing at several places raising the question whether the lining was really ever constructed since there is no trace of any construction material used.

Despite public outroar against irrigation scamsters, three years later, neither officials nor contractor has bothered to rectify this glaring defect and shameful situation remains as it is.

During the first visit in 2015, one Madhav Nerkar, an aggrieved farmer from Khadaksawanga who lost his 2.5 acres fertile land said, “The project was not at all necessary on this river. The village has been immersed in dam and has become a part of forgotten history. Government acquired my fertile land which was yielding white gold. Now it is very difficult for my family to survive as Government has given meager compensation at the rate of Rs 22, 000 per hectare.”

During revisit on February 4, 2018, aggrieved farmers Suresh Annaji Aglawe, Laukik Narendra Aglawe, Babarao Devrao Aglawe, Babarao Marotrao Mahajan, Chindhu Shamrao Bawane, Pravin Chindhu Bawane and Bhupendra Aglawe complained about no traces of branch canal, sub canals and minors in their areas. All these farmers had lost their fertile lands about 20 years ago and except for 35 to 40 acres land, the entire land in the area is deprived of a single drop of water to irrigate. The farmers also complained that the construction of main canal near Dharmapur was stopped. To get water from main canal which is 35 feet below their farms, VIDC officials should do some engineering miracles so that the water could reach to their farms.

The volunteers visited Ridhora, Ramteerth, Ashta and Waltur areas where VIDC had claimed completion of the construction of canals or distribution channels.
The Hitavada has procured a document of Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, State Project Wing, Government of India, dated October 21, 2016, that is after the visit of Maharashtra Chief Minister to Bembla Project which stated, “The undersigned is directed to convey the sanction of the President of India to the payment of Ts 155,22,20,000 (Rupees One Hundred Fifty Five Crore Twenty Two Lakh and Twenty Thousands only) to the Government of Maharashtra being grant under Accelerated irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) under PMKSY for State’s Annual Plan 2016-17.” Bembla river Project got Rs 2273 lakhs or Rs 22.73 crores under the scheme.

Dr Chetan Darne, an activist from Ralegaon said, “Bembla project is a classic example where contractors received their payment for not doing any work, the contractors who completed some work have not received payment and despite storage of water in main reservoir, no one is ready to complete it for want of money.”


Project at a glance

Administrative Approval                      Cost in crores
Original Administrative                        Rs 19.036 Cr
Approval (AA)                                    (16.10.1992)

First Revised AA Rs                            62.248 Cr
Second Revised AA                            Rs 1278.94 Cr


Third Revised AA                             Rs 2176.28 Cr

Proposed Revised AA                       Rs 3622 Cr

Total Expenditure till March 2015 -   Rs 1857.83 Cr
Canal Details
Canal Dehani LIS Total
GCA 59,153 Ha 7,400Ha 66,553Ha
CCA 53,560 Ha 7,400Ha 60,960ha
ICA 40,170 Ha 6,968 Ha 47,138Ha
I.P 47,000 Ha 6,968Ha 53,968 Ha
(GCA=Gross Cultivable Area, CCA=Commandable Cultivable Area
ICA= Irrigable Cultivable Area I.P=Irrigation Potential)
Actual Irrigation=1200 Ha


Janmanch chief condemns project

Janmanch President Prof Sharad Patil condemned the officials for not completing the project in time. “Though the project has been taken on War Room of Chief Minister and after the report of a committee of 29 MLAs, VIDC officials are still reluctant to show any progress. The revised administrative approval (RAA) for 2015-16 was Rs 3,622 crores, but VIDC officials claimed non receipt of money. Why VIDC officials have to go to Nasik for sanctioning of RAA? Why Government is not authorising Executive Director of VIDC to sanction the RAA? The last meeting was held on June 17, 2017 regarding RAA and even after 8 months, there is no progress in getting the amount. It’s a mockery. Chief Minister has to take note of this serious issue and authorise VIDC to take responsibility of disbursement of RAA for the benefit of farmers.”
Pralhad Kharasane, Kishore Gulhane, Baba Rathod, Nana Akhare, K.B Dabholkar, Vinod Borkute, Adv Manohar Radke, Adv Avinash Kale, Pradeep Ninawe, Dr Amitabh Pawade, Ajay Bondre and others were also present.