A puzzle of revised estimates and recurring costs
By Biju E Paul | Published: 14th November 2012 10:56 AM |
The Kuttanad Package is now a mathematical puzzle. Most of the works under the Package are pending. The contractors have stopped work on the outer bund, and are awaiting approval for the revised estimates. The implementing agencies have submitted proposals to the government in this regard.
A major player in the entire construction process is the Irrigation Department, whose portfolio covers the outer bunds and strengthening the paddy polder.
In the approved estimate, the work, worth Rs 1,100 crore, is under the Irrigation Department. A
revised estimate of Rs 3,699 crore was submitted to the Centre for approval. The total expenditure was revised to Rs 4,669 crore. In merely four years, the estimated amount increased three-fold.
According to Union Minister of State for Labour Kodikunnil Suresh, the Central Water Commission (CWC) has expressed concern over the problems in the implementation of the Kuttanad Package. “The outer bund construction has been derailed. The implementing agencies did not submit a report on the completed work. After being compelled by the people’s representatives, the government is planning to increase the Package fund to Rs 10,000 crore. Though Kuttanad taluk should be given priority in the Package, it is being directed to other areas,” he said.
In the Package, thrust was given to the construction of outer bunds. Paddy cultivation is carried out in approximately 37,000 hectares of land in Kuttanad, out of which 15,000 hectares are shielded by outer bunds.
In the past decades, farmers had cultivated in the ‘kayal’ lands after building outer bunds with mud. Bunds were put in place every season.
In a study conducted by the MSSRF, it was found that a permanent solution is required for the smooth farming in the low-lying paddy fields. Constructing outer bunds using granite rubble is recommended.
The implementing agencies learnt that the pile-and-slab method of constructing the outer bund would suit the ‘kayal’ lands. The Irrigation Department was entrusted with the work. As many as 37 works were tendered under the KEL I, II and III phases. In the KEL I phase, 14 works were awarded, but only one work was completed. Five works reached a standstill, and the other works are progressing at a snail’s pace.
The major bund construction work is under the KEL II phase. Rani, Chithira, C and D blocks, D Thekke Aarayiram, D Vadakke Aarayiram, E, H, and I blocks are included in this sector.
About 61 per cent of the bund construction in the Rani and Chithira ‘kayals’ was completed. However, for over two decades, no paddy cultivation was done in this sector. A total of 64 per cent of the work has been completed in C and D blocks, but the contractor stopped the construction work and asked for a revision in the estimated amount. In another section, only 2.25 per cent of the bund construction was finished in the last four years.
In the KEL III phase, out of 20 works, only the bund construction at Poovathur has been completed.
The contractors who had got the sanction for the construction of all the other works has not started the work in this regard till now. They are awaiting the revised rates for the construction.
Irrigation Department Executive Engineer (Kuttanad Package) Scaria said, “Some of the work under the package is pending, and the department had submitted a proposal to the government to revise the estimate,” he said.
According to Fr Thomas Peelianickal, Kuttanad Vikasana Samiti executive director, in the pile-and-slab construction method, the depth of the slab is 6.5 m, but it is not sufficient to prevent water penetration. “In November 2011, at C block, there was a breach in the bund which was constructed using the method. The farmers’ organisations opposed the method. After the farmers and other organisations put pressure, the slab’s depth was increased to 7.5 m. Citing this revision as a reason, the contractors halted the work. Over four months have passed, but no construction work has been done in the Kuttanad region. In the meantime, media reports claim that the government sanctioned the construction of bunds in the area,” he said.
Regarding the fallow Rani and Chithira ‘kayal’ land, Fr Thomas pointed out that the Irrigation Department had tendered the outer bund construction. “In the 1990s, Malabar Cements to was sanctioned to collect claims from the ‘kayal’ land. Therefore, the depth of the polders were increased to over 10 m, making the land unfit for paddy cultivation.
Meanwhile, most of the land was purchased by the land mafia for tourism prospects. Some politicians were also involved in tourism projects. So the Irrigation Department hastily approved the outer bund construction in the Rani and Chithira ‘kayal’ lands. The bunds in the area would will be constructed, but priority should be given to the C, D and other paddy polders where farming was carried out. The farmers were irritated when priority was given to Rani and Chithira, and they stood against the implementing agencies,” he said.