‘Guarantees have swallowed irrigation projects,’ experts pull up Siddaramaiah government

The likes of the Upper Krishna Project, Kalasa Banduri Nala Diversion Project, and Upper Bhadra Project got not funds.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Feb 19, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedFeb 19, 2024 | 12:01 PM

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar offered bagina to Krishna River at Lal Bahadur Shastri Water Reservoir at Almatti, Vijayapura, on Saturday. (Supplied)

Irrigation experts and Opposition political leaders criticised the Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka government for not announcing any grants for major irrigation projects, including the Upper Krishna Project (UKP) and the Kalasa Banduri Nala Project, in the budget.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday, 16 February, presented the second budget since he assumed power for a second term in the state.

In the ₹3.71 lakh crore budget for the fiscal year 2024-25, the Congress government allocated ₹19,179 crore for the Water Resources Department, which amounts to a little above 5 percent of the total budget.

The state government did allocate a whopping ₹11,059 crore for about 15 lift-irrigation projects and rejuvenation of old lift irrigation projects across Kalaburagi, Udupi, Bagalkot, Gadag, Uttara Kannada, Vijayapura, Yadgir, and Belagavi, aimed at irrigating 2,07,048 hectares.

It may be recalled that in the run-up to the 2023 Karnataka Assembly polls, the Congress promised it would allocate a record ₹1.5 lakh crore to implement major irrigation projects in its five-year-tenure.

In its two successive budgets, the Congress government has announced ₹38,200 crore so far.

Related: Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah presents ₹3.71 lakh crore budget

No grants for major irrigation projects

Despite allocating ₹19,179 crore for the Irrigation Department, the Congress government failed to allocate grants for major irrigation projects, including Upper Krishna Project, in its budget.

On the implementation of Upper Krishna Project, Kalasa Banduri Nala (Mahadayi) Diversion Project, and Upper Bhadra Project, the state government pointed to the Union government over delay in clearing the files related to these projects and did not announce a single rupee.

Stating that the state government would pursue the issuing notification for UKP Phase-III with the Centre, Siddaramaiah said: “Priority will be given to land acquisition and resettlement and rehabilitation as well as to complete sub-schemes under North Karnataka’s ambitious UKP Phase-III project.”

He added: “All necessary legal measures will be taken up along with pursuing the Central government to notify the final award of Krishna Tribunal-II.”

Demanding that the Centre release the promised grants, Siddaramaiah said: “The Central government allocated ₹5,300 crore for the Upper Bhadra Project in the 2023-24 Budget. However, the funds have not been disbursed yet. Despite previous claims by the state government of it being declared a national project, this has not been confirmed.”

He added: “The project aims to irrigate approximately 75,000 acres of land in the Chitradurga district. The state government urges the Central government to release the promised grants to benefit local farmers.”

The chief minister also said: “The detailed project report (DPR) for utilising 3.9 tmcft water under the Kalasa-Banduri Nala Diversion Project has received clearance from the Central Water Commission.”

He added: “The state government initiated the tender process expecting forest clearance from the National Board for Wildlife. However, the forest clearance was deferred in a recent meeting chaired by the Union Minister for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change.”

On constructing a balancing reservoir near Navali in the Koppal district, Siddaramaiah said: “To address the issue of reduced water storage capacity in the Tungabhadra reservoir due to silt accumulation and meet the demands of local farmers, a detailed project report has been prepared.”

He noted: “The project is estimated to cost ₹15,600 crore. Consultations with Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have begun for project implementation, with priority given to its execution.”

However, there was no allocation in the budget for any of these projects.

Also Read: ‘Cauvery Phase-5 project for Bengaluru to be operationalised by May’

Experts express anguish  

Irrigation Expert Ashok Chandaragi told South First: “The budget clearly hints that guarantee schemes have completely swallowed the irrigation projects, especially in the Kittur Karnataka region. Guarantees are being implemented at the cost of irrigation projects.”

On UKP, Chandaragi pointed out: “The Justice Brijesh Kumar Tribunal delivered its report on the UKP in 2013. It allowed the increase of the height of the Almatti dam to 524.06m.”

He noted: “After Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh, they knocked the doors of the Supreme Court seeking redistribution of Krishna water. Since then, the UKP has been facing legal hurdles.”

He added: “However, the Centre should first issue a gazette notification on the matter. It has been over a decade. The project cost was estimated at ₹51,000 crore in 2017. Now, it has shot up to ₹80,000 crore.”

Stating that political parties had confined themselves to making false promises, Chandaragi said: “In 2019, when BS Yediyurappa was at the helm, he promised ₹20,000 crore every year for four years, but he failed to stand by his words. Basavaraj Bommai promised the same amount, but he allocated a mere ₹5,000 crore during his tenure. The Congress government is following the legacy of its predecessors.”

On other irrigation projects not finding budgetary allocations, Chandaragi said: “The Centre has already published the gazette notification pertaining to Mahadayi, but it is awaiting wildlife clearance, where it has already got environment and forest clearance.”

He added: “When the BJP was at the helm in the state, it at least allocated about ₹1,000 crore for Mahadayi in the budget. But the Siddaramaiah government has failed to show its commitment as it failed to allocate grants for the project.”

Chandaragi also said: “It is true that the Centre had announced ₹5,300 crore for the Upper Bhadra Project in its budget in 2023-24, but did not sanction any grants. The state is blaming the Centre for not releasing funds. Isn’t it the responsibility of the state government as well? How much has the state released for this project in the last one year?”

He pointed out: “The Congress promised to allocate ₹1.5 lakh crore to implement all the major irrigation projects. But it has already presented two budgets and allotted not even ₹40,000 crore for the irrigation works. The government has completely neglected the irrigation department in the budget.”

Asked whether the Centre would be sharing the cost of these three irrigation projects, he said: “The Centre will provide the grants to these projects if and only if they are declared as the national project.”

Karnataka Budget 2024: Bengaluru and beyond set for massive development surge

Govt neglected irrigation projects, says BJP

Former water resources minister and BJP leader Govind Karol blamed the Siddaramaiah government for neglecting major irrigation projects in the budget.

Karjol told South First: “The Congress government has yet again meted out injustice to the people of North Karnataka — especially the Krishna basin — in the budget. The UKP, Upper Bhadra, and Mahadayi projects have not been allocated any grants.”

He added: “The Siddaramaiah government is least bothered about implementing these major irrigation projects. It is not only irrigation: Other sectors — including education, social welfare, and women’s empowerment — have been completely ignored in the budget.”

On the state government blaming the Centre for delay in implementing the projects, Karjol said: “The Congress is making false allegations on the Union government. When we were at the helm, the Kalasa Banduri project was given administrative and technical nods, and the tender process was also in the final stage when the elections were announced.”

He added: “The successive government should not have stopped the tender. We allocated ₹1,000 crore for the project in the budget, but they have not. We are following up with the Centre to get the clearance for the project, but the state government is not showing any will.”

Karjol also said: “It is shameful that the state government is blaming the Centre for not releasing grants for the Upper Bhadra Project, which was announced in the Centre’s budget in 2023-24.”

He claimed: “The state delayed the submitting of the Cabinet proceedings and conditions in the required format to the Centre. Hence, the Centre has not released grants. The Congress government not doing anything since assuming the power and blaming the Centre does not serve any purpose.”