Assam’s Dhansiri Irrigation Project: 40 years on, it still awaits completion

GUWAHATI: The BJP-led alliance has made an impressive start to their tenure in Assam but certain sections remain disgruntled over the repeated failure of parties to initiate development works. Such is the case of Udalguri residents, comprising mostly of farmers who have waited for years on end to see the Dhansiri Irrigation Project materialise. This major irrigation project of Assam has not seen the light of the day for the last 40 years.
The newly-formed Greater Udalguri Conscious Citizens’ Forum (GUCCF) in a press release expressed this concern and alleged that the Dhansiri Irrigation Project, labelled as one of the major irrigation projects of the State, has turned into a white elephant due to the faulty action plans, corruption and lack of awareness among the farmers who would have been the actual beneficiaries of the project.

The Dhansiri Irrigation project was started in the year 1975-76 during the peaceful situation of Assam. Before the project works geared up for execution the Assam Agitation was started in 1978-79 and continued for long. The work could not be executed as per construction programme due to law and order problem in the project area. This has been cited as one of the main reasons for the delay in execution causing time and cost overrun.

The other reasons as informed by authorities mainly are:
1. Land acquisition problems.
2. Non-availability of scares materials like cement and steel.
3. Change of river courses in upper reaches.
4. Interstate and international aspects involving Arunachal and Bhutan.
5. Non-availability of required funds for execution as per construction programme. The plan allocation under the Major/ Medium sector has declined in every plan periods from 13.74% in seventh plan to 6.30% in ninth plan period. Under the circumstances mentioned above, the project cost has been increased manifolds due to time and cost over run and present proposed cost of the project estimated to Rs. 41000.00 lakh as against Rs. 1583.00 lakh. The Department has proposed to complete major part of the project within the Tenth Plan Periods subject to availability of fund as per completion schedule.

A press release by the forum signed by its president Prafulla Kumar Basumatary and Dalim Bayan, president and secretary respectively also expressed concern over the indifferent attitude of the new Irrigation Minister Ranjit Dutta during his recent visit to Bhairabkunda to take stock of the project works.

The Greater Udalguri Conscious Citizens’ Forum had also intimated the Irrigation Minister on the present health of the irrigation project through a memorandum on June 24 during the minister’s visit to Bhairabkunda, where the irrigation site is located. In the memorandum it was stated that the Dhansiri irrigation project got under way in 1974-75 with a budget of Rs 15.83 crore along the Indo-Bhutan border with an objective to irrigate 12,000 hectares of cultivable land. But the project has not been completed till date even though the budget was enhanced to Rs 575 crore.
Allegations have arisen that there is a nexus among the officials concerned, employees and contractors of the project and due to their utter negligence and disinterest, owing to which, the project was suffering.
The memorandum also alleged that the last tender of Dhansiri irrigation project was issued in 2014.

(TNT News)

image: representational

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