VIJAYAWADA: Even as just six months are left for the completion of Polavaram Irrigation Project (PIP) as per the revised target approved by the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA), the investment clearance for Revised Cost Estimates (RCE), without which funds will not be released, is still pending with the Centre.The Water Resources Department has informed the State government that there has been ‘no movement’ in the investment clearance proposal. The Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS) has to give the investment clearance and then send the same to the Union Cabinet for final approval.
The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) had approved the RCE of Rs 30,610 crore at 2013-14 price level (PL) and Rs 55,548 crore in February, 2019, at 2017-18 PL. Subsequently, the Revised Cost Committee (RCC) had pruned the same to Rs 28,919 crore at 2013-14 PL for old quantities and Rs 47,725 crore at 2017-18 PL in July, 2020 for revised work quantities. In October, 2020, the Ministry of Finance considered Rs 28,919 crore at 2013-14 PL for release of funds and arrived at a balance of Rs 20,398 crore after removing the power house and water supply component as per March, 2017 Cabinet resolution, which said only funding for the remaining cost of irrigation component would be borne by the Centre. After the State protested and sought approval for 2017-18 PL, the PPA in November, 2020, recommended both 2013-14 PL and 2017-18 PL, stating that the latter was necessary for the project completion.
The issue of RCE has been pending with the MoJS ever since even though correspondence between the PPA and the State has been going on. “There has been no movement in the RCE in the MoJS. We have been providing information sought by the PPA and the ministry, but no headway has been made even though just six months are left for the project completion,” a senior official explained.
In response to an RTI plea filed by TNIE seeking the status of investment clearance for the RCE and when it is expected to be given, the PPA has termed the query hypothetical and unspecific and claimed that it was not covered under the RTI Act. Unless investment clearance is obtained by the MoJS and it forwards it to the Union Cabinet after due diligence with the Ministry of Finance, the RCE won’t be cleared. Until then, the State will not receive funds as the Finance Ministry had taken March, 2017 Cabinet resolution as reference for fund release. This is the reason that bills are also not being cleared, the official explained.
The State government’s request to include the water component of Rs 7,023 crore in the RCE in accordance with the funding guidelines for the national project has also been rejected by the Finance Ministry. “The MoJS has recommended the inclusion of the water component, but the Department of Expenditure under the Ministry of Finance didn’t accept it. The MoJS has asked us for comments and we are in the process of preparing replies,” officials informed Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in a review meeting held last week.
“We can continue civil works with whatever reimbursements we get, but for land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement, upfront money, that too in large quantum, is required. Until then, we will not be able to meet the target in the available time,” another official said.So far, Rs 18, 200 crore has been spent on the project. Of the total, Rs 13,500 crore has been spent after the declaration of PIP as a national project. The Centre has reimbursed Rs 11, 492 crore. The State needs another Rs 26,570 crore for the completion of land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement of the entire project (+45.72 m contour).