VIJAYAWADA: Appreciating the Polavaram Project’s “remarkable” progress since his visit nine months ago, Union Water Resources Minister Nitin Gadkari assured that his department would forward the revised cost estimates of the national project to the Ministry of Finance for approval within eight days of the State government justifying the escalation in expenses.
Gadkari clarified that the Narendra Modi-led NDA government “does not mix politics and developmental activities”. The comment comes amid a full-throttled war of words between the TDP and the BJP, claiming credit for every little success and passing the buck in case of any misstep or delay in the irrigation project.
“Whatever funds the contractors need, we will provide.
The venture is our pride and responsibility, not the AP government’s. Since it will benefit not just the farmers of AP, but the entire country, we don’t want to mix political issues with developmental activities,” Gadkari said.
Gadkari, who visited the project site on Wednesday for the first time after the TDP and the BJP parted ways, said the Centre was committed to completing the project.
“There are some problems, but we are deliberating on how to resolve them. I will ask my department to allot three days exclusively for the Polavaram project and I request Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu to send his team. In the meeting, if the State government can justify the cost escalation, I promise to send the revised estimates for Ministry of Finance’s approval within eight days,” he said adding he would also help in arranging a meeting with the Ministry of Finance for the quick approval of the revised detailed project report (DPR).
It may be recalled that the cost of the project increased from Rs 16,010 crore as per 2010-11 estimates to Rs 57,940 crore in 2013-14. The reason for the drastic surge is being attributed to land acquisition as per the amended Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, which spiked land acquisition cost from Rs 2,934 crore to Rs 33,225 crore. The cost of the headworks also went up to Rs 11, 300 crore from Rs 6,600 crore.
Gadkari added that though the escalation in cost for civil construction could be justified, the State should be able to convince the Centre on why the requirement of land went up drastically. “There is no problem for finances, but we have to convince why there is an escalation. While we can cite the amended Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 for the escalation of some part of land costs, it is important to convince why the land requirement doubled,” he observed.
Responding to Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s letter seeking the release of Rs 10,000 crore funds in advance even as deliberations on revised DPR continue, Gadkari said, “Once the Ministry of Finance approves the revised cost, I will see if it is under my purview to release the funds in advance.”
He requested the contractor to ensure the completion of the concrete works by February, 2019, as against the earlier plan of April, 2019, so that he can visit it before the election code of conduct comes into effect.
Naidu, who spoke after after Gadkari’s address, explained that the increased expenditure was a technical issue.
“The increase in land requirement is a technical issue which is based on the full reservoir level of the dam and the area of submergence due to it. So, it is in the hand of the Centre. If the Government of India or experts have any better suggestion, they can share it with us and we will adopt it,” he added.