Ranchi, July 9: A strongly-worded letter from the Orissa chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, to the governor, Syed Sibtey Razi, on inordinate delays plaguing the ambitious Subernarekha Multipurpose Project (SMP), despite the neighbouring state spending a whopping over Rs 545 crore over the last three decades, has activated the Jharkhand administration.
The state development commissioner, S.K. Choudhary, has convened a meeting on it tomorrow, while officials of the state water resources department, the agency executing the project, was still struggling to find ways to complete at least the part of the project that would provide water for Orissas farmlands spread over 70,000 hectare.
We received a letter from the Orissa chief minister a fortnight ago, asking for early completion of parts of the SMP that would help Orissa get water for irrigation, said Ranjit Singh, the engineer-in-chief of the state water resources department.
But a clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) is still awaited, he added.
Singh, who doubles up as chief engineer of the Chandil portion of the SMP, said if the Union ministry granted clearance after the state sent a fresh proposal, they would be able to complete the project earliest by June 2010.
SMP, one of the regions biggest projects incepted way back in the 70s at an estimated cost of Rs 128 crore, was aimed at irrigating over 2,57,000 hectare agricultural fields of Jharkhand, Orissa and Bengal, besides preventing flash floods — as experienced frequently by Jamshedpur — due to the Kharkai river.
The project is far from complete, with project costs having escalated to Rs 5,300 crore with states — Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa — having already spent about Rs 2,000 crore. Orissas farms can hope to get water only after the completion of the Galudih right main canal in East Singhbhums Ghatshila-Bahragora region.
The former engineer-in-chief of SMP, Phulan Prasad, who was associated with the project till mid-2007, listed the main reasons behind the delay: poor budget allocations, land acquisition problems and forest clearance. Now pegged at Rs 5,300 crore, the project requires over Rs 3,300 crore now. Its up to state planners to decide the pace of work, given that annual allocations have never gone up beyond Rs 120 crore, he said.
He added SMP was proving to be a white elephant.