Mumbai: The Maharashtra government's flagship water conservation scheme claims to have rejuvenated water bodies and created an additional storage potential, in a state where some parts perennially face a drought-like situation.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the credit for the scheme's "success" goes to the huge public participation, and expressed hope that drought would soon become a thing of the past for the state.
The micro-irrigation project, called 'Jalyukt Shivar', involves deepening and widening of streams, construction of cement and earthen stop dams, and digging of farm ponds, to make the state free of drought by next year.
Under the scheme, a water storage capacity of 17,27,229 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) has been created across 16,521 villages in 34 districts of the state since 2015, according to official figures.
The data mentions that in 2015-2016, 100 per cent work under the scheme was completed in 6,202 villages.
In 2016-17, out of the total 5,288 villages where the project was taken up, 100 per cent work was completed in 5,114 villages and 80 per cent in 174 villages.
In 2017-18, out of 5,031 villages selected for the scheme, 100 per cent work was completed in 396 villages, 80 per cent in 1,247 villages, while work was on in the remaining 3,418 villages.
Thus, out of the total 16,521 villages, 100 per cent work has been completed in 11,712 villages and 80 per cent in 1,421 villages.
An irrigation potential of 22,74,744 hectares has thereby been created in these villages, according to the data.
Fadnavis said when people consider any scheme as their mission or a movement it is bound to be successful, and Jalyukt Shivar is the best example of this.
"With this scheme, we have not only been able to reduce the number of tankers (for water supply in districts facing scarcity) but farmers are now able to take two to three crops (for cultivation) and water the plants even during rain gaps," he said.
In 2013-14, there was 124 per cent rainfall and the agriculture production was 137.91 lakh metric tonnes (MT). However, in 2017-18, despite rainfall being 84.3 per cent of its total capacity, there was an agricultural production of 132.83 lakh MT, Fadnavis said.
"We are committed to making all drought-prone villages water neutral (having adequate water) by 2019 and all our efforts are in that direction. I believe drought will soon become a thing of the past for Maharashtra," he said.
Nearly Rs 7,000 crore has been spent on works under the scheme. Of this sum, about Rs 630 crore has been raised through public participation, an official in the water supply department said.
He said while 6,140 tankers were used for water supply across various districts of the state in 2015, the number came down to 1,379 in 2016.
Last year, 366 tankers were used, while this year, only 152 tankers have been used across districts that faced water scarcity, the official added.
However, Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Council, Dhananjay Munde, claimed that Jalyukt Shivar was a "failed" and "corrupt" scheme despite the government's tall claims.
The scheme has been implemented in an unscientific manner and various incidents of corruption have come to light, the NCP leader said.
"The government's claim of a drop in the number of tankers used for water supply is a farce. The number of tankers used this year has gone up as compared to last year," he claimed, adding that "in no way can this scheme be termed successful."
Munde demanded a high-level inquiry into the scheme's implementation, alleging that it could involve "corruption worth thousands of crores."