Please elaborate on the role you play as the Minister of State for Water Resources and Water Conservation, Government of Maharashtra.
Hon’ble Minister: Our job is to build new dams and the distribution system, like irrigation canals etc, and supply water for irrigation to the farmers. This is the job of Jalasampada Department. Another department that comes under my ministry is the Jalasandhara department, which means water conservation. Jalasandhara plays a pivotal role, wherever the water cannot be provided by Jalasampada department through gravity or canals due to the topographical conditions, like hilly or high altitude areas or areas with negative geographical conditions like scarcity of rainfall.
We require about 74,000 crores for completion of various ongoing projects, spread across Maharashtra. Normally 8,000 crores are given every year. A total of 40,000 crores will be given through annual budgets, in five years. We have also received a soft loan of approximately 16,000 crores from NABARD. We are also getting good support from PMKSY – Prime Minister Krishi Sinchayee Yojana. Taking into account the 10-12% annual inflation, today, I need 74,000 crores to complete the projects. If the projects are not completed within 2-3 years, then additional 7,400 crores are added to the requirement due to inflation in the prices of cement, steel etc. All these automatically affect the upcoming projects and the budgets. Hence, we are trying to tie-up the loose ends.
How do you repay the money?
Hon’ble Minister: There are regular procedures and agreements for repayments, which the finance department takes care of. There are soft loans, for which interest rate is 4% to 5%. However, my target is to complete all the big projects, within 2 to 3 years.
What are the changes in the previous and current government’s style of functioning?
Hon’ble Minister: The major change is that suppose 8,000 crores are allocated for a project, the previous government used to involve contractors and all kinds of malpractices were going on. Out of 8,000 crores, they used to distribute little amount to all projects and nothing used to come out. Within these five years’ time, we have decided to take up projects where actual irrigation is possible and we can complete. We take up such projects for Chief Minister’s approval. We have also discussed similar kind of projects with the Central Government and the PMKSY authorities. So, whatever fund allocation we get from the Central Government, we allocate them appropriately at the State level. Hence, some of the ongoing projects, which are below 50%, remain standstill for the time being.
We are targeting larger projects under PMKSY, where actual irrigation is possible and not just creation of potential. The earlier Congress government used to claim that potential irrigation capacity has been created and nothing further would be done, on that front. When a statement is made that 7,500 hectors irrigation potential is created, then it means the infrastructure is ready to give water to announced area. Take the example of Tarli region in Konkan, where 8,500 hectors fell under DPR – Drought Prone Region. On papers, the previous government claimed that in this area, water can be provided for 7,500 hectors. In reality, only 350 hectors could be provided water. Things were not happening for a number of reasons. There were no proper ongoing construction projects. Engineers were absolutely idle, while some were just too busy. Now, we have done restructuring and put proper systems in place. If surplus people, including engineers are there in the construction of a project, then we transfer those engineers and management people to another project. Wherever a dam is completed and distribution requires additional manpower, we have done total rearrangement and reorganization. Maximum people are put into management, so that maximum irrigation, as per the project DPR can be achieved.
What are the new innovative ideas you have implemented in your portfolio as a minister?
Hon’ble Minister: Jalayukta Shivar Yojana is one of the best examples in the whole of India. Some foreign countries have also taken the note of it. My constituency Purandara Taluka fell under acute draught prone area. In the past four to six decades, some villages used to face water scarcity all the time. Pingori village of Purandara Taluka, had been witnessing severs scarcity of water, since the last 40 years. Until a few years back, the first tanker would be called from October-November itself. I was the opposition MLA at that time and only 10 crores were given for DPAP – Drought Prone Area Programme for creation of chain cement bandaras. This amount was not enough, so I approached Dagdu Sheth Halwai Trust, Sai Baba Sansthan, Siddhivinayak Trust, as well as, some big corporate companies and managed to get funds.
Five years prior to coming into power, I did experiments in my constituency. I took help of NGOs and institutions to study the situation and find solution. Two thousand people from the village got involved and actively became a part of creation of the first Jalyukt Shivar concept. We were able to achieve 24 TMC water, manage de-centralized water storage system without much land acquisition or spending big amount. Within 2,000 crores, this project was successfully executed, as against 200 to 300 crores expense per 1 TMC under the government norms, which would have taken 10-15 years to achieve and taken the project cost to 6,000 to 8,000 crores. Today the situation has completely changed. Forget calling tankers, now you will find water within 10 feet of digging, anywhere within the village. That is the level of ground water recharge, we have been able to achieve.
Today, water conservation through Jalyukt Shivar is not merely government scheme, but also it has become a reality of society conservation, where people irrespective of their religion, cast or social status have risen above everything and come together to fulfill a larger objective. It is a very big achievement of Jalyukt Shivar! It is a flagship programme of the government which was originally conceived, started and successfully executed by me. Today it is being implemented at State level and other States and countries are also taking a note of it and trying to replicate it. The positive result of this water conservation scheme can be seen in the form of bumper crop of Tur dal. The yield this year has increased by 10 times. Rabi crop is sown around December-January and timely water supply in right quantity is very crucial during the last phase of the crop. If adequate water supply is not available in the last phase, instead of 10 times, the final yield would only be 10%. Similarly, compared to the situation 10 years ago in the month of May, the demand for tankers has reduced drastically all over Maharashtra in DPAP area. It is not even 25% as on date. This improvement in the situation indicates drinking water resources have got adequately recharged and there is no need to depend on tankers.
How have you overcome scarcity of water management?
Hon’ble Minister: The major challenge is that there is scarcity of water. Due to global warming and rising temperature, the rainfall percentage has dropped by 5%, while the demand for water keeps increasing. Converting saline sea water into drinking water is an expensive affair; hence we have to manage with whatever water nature provides us. Earlier generation gave us the concept of dams for water storage. What we can give to the next generation is the system to manage this water properly, through water conservation, drip irrigation systems, water recycling, rain water harvesting etc. Pune city is successfully utilizing recycled water for gardening, car wash, quarrying, civil work, real estate development etc. In Nagpur and Nashik, all the waste water is given to India Bulls for their thermal power station. They treat and use this water under the provisions of BOT – Build-Operate-Transfer system. Earlier this water used to pollute the soil and create environmental pollution. Now there is no pollution, because the waste water is being treated and used by various companies. In fact, some corporation bodies are also earning money from the supply of waste water to these companies. All these are good examples of water and waste water management as well as recycling of water for industrial purposes. Industries need to take self initiative in this direction
Do you think that the Central Government should make rain water harvesting a mandatory act for every construction project?
Hon’ble Minister: That’s already in place. If you see the DC rules of Mumbai, it is already there. Water conservation is compulsory
Is there any system of back-checking to ensure developers are following the norms?
Hon’ble Minister: It has been observed that after getting the OC, developers do not follow the rules. I think, there should be a combination of penalties and incentives. So, if the developer follows the norms properly, then they get 5% incentive on property tax, as well as, provide them with incentives on similar lines. We are working on this issue.
What are the new steps taken by your ministry to tackle the water problem?
Hon’ble Minister: For Mumbai, we are getting water from Pinjal. As I said, after the power generation, 67.5 TMC water is going from Vashishti river to the ocean and completely wasted. Through gravity, we are trying to get that water into Mumbai and NahiNa and New Bombay, Panvel Mahanagar Palika. There is lot of urbanization taking place, lot of industrialization, so that kind of water we can use, which is being wasted.
What is the future vision for your ministry’s agenda?
Hon’ble Minister: We cannot construct new dams. We do not get the places. Secondly, the land acquisition cost is so high that it is not feasible. Hence, whatever water stock we have, should be utilize properly, every drop per crop, as our honorable Prime Minister said. All dams are there on the higher level and down the line up to 200-250 km water flows down. The areas on top are known as the command areas. Now, we are giving Rs. 30,000-40,000/- as subsidy for drip irrigation. There is electricity limitations for farmers allowing only 8 to 10 hours supply every day. Sometimes the supply is available only in the day time and not available in the night. But for cultivation of certain crops, 12 to 15 hours of continuous water supply or 2 days continuously is required. Aided by law of gravity, if you put water from that grid or parent system, using the difference in level between the command area and the irrigation area, you will get water with pressure from the distribution chamber, where no electricity is required. It will be one of the most important achievements. There will be no need of electricity and whatever time the electricity is available, it can be used to pump water into the distribution chamber, continuous process and then use it. That is my dream project. Practical feasibility cannot be achieved only through law, until and unless we do not get out of drip irrigation system completely. Wherever there is flow irrigation, like in case of sugarcane etc., then it should be put on drip irrigation, but practically it is not possible.
If you have individual pipelines for individual talukas, then you will save water, no pollution, no evaporation loss and there will be a pressurized pipeline through electricity to the bottom of their farm, so that is the drip project. Earlier, we used to do this capital investment on dams, now we will have to do capital investment on these parent systems. Suppose 2 lakh hectares of six talukas are there and there are individual pipelines for all talukas, there will be no wastage. We are coming up with a new concept. We are managing with the help of modern technology, go for drip irrigation parent systems and from there the distribution, fully atomize the drip irrigation system, like say 500 acres, 10 people can come together, have one control panel and no need of giving, like today the systems are so developed. Suppose there are 2,000 trees of any fruit, everywhere there is a sensor, wherever the moisture content will go down, automatically system will give water to that particular area only. Earlier, what used to happen was that with the push of a button all 5,000 trees used to get water. Now wherever it is required, automatically it will start. This technology is already well-developed. So by putting all these techniques, it will give the desired results in the form of good crop, higher yield and more income for the farmers.
Will it address the problem of farmers’ suicide?
Hon’ble Minister: There are many reasons behind farmer suicides, especially the crop pattern. If you go to Western Maharashtra, even a person having one acre of land will never commit suicide. The reason is that he is putting different fruit trees and he earns 10 to 15 lakhs a year. The areas, where suicides are taking place, the agriculture department, water conservation department, water resources department etc need to sit together to analyze the availability of water and decide the crop pattern, which will give high yield and good income. The need is to do macro planning in such region. We are deliberating on this aspect.
What support do you seek from corporate sector through CSR activities for your ministry, so that it can come forward deliver good results?
Hon’ble Minister: CSR activities are 2% of the total income and all government’s loss. However, a lot of people are not doing it to return something to the society. They should contribute something to it. Once they will come and do a job, the self satisfaction is such that they will ask for more social work projects. Hence, there should be a dialogue between the industrialists, government and the local people to achieve projects, which will benefit the society at large.