The Odisha Government is found to have used agricultural land for implementing watershed development projects in the State instead of going for wasteland as per the guidelines.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), in a preliminary report, has detected that the Government spent huge funds on the projects which were carried out on ineligible land.
The projects were taken up under Centrally sponsored schemes like Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP), Integrated Watershed Development Programme (IWDP), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) not only to overcome drought, land degradation but also for improvement of socio-economic plight of the economically weaker sections.
As per the DPAP and IWDP guidelines, project should be implemented on non-forest and degraded land. However, the draft CAG report found out that total 4,18,501 hectare land was selected for treatment at a cost of ` 256.63 crore out of which 2,39,401.60 hectare, approximately 57 per cent, was agriculture land ineligible under the guidelines. During 2000-01 and 2012-13, about ` 234.86 crore was spent on the projects. Sixty per cent of the projects was on ineligible land. Project directors of projects claimed that due to non-availability of wasteland as well as pastureland, agricultural land was selected by them.
The CAG found the explanation "unacceptable" since about 7,07,443 hectare wasteland was available in the districts as per Wasteland Atlas of India. The Agriculture Department, which implements all the projects, also executes Macro Management of Agriculture and two sub-programmes such as National Watershed Development Programme for Rainfed Area and River Valley Project through its Soil Conservation Wing.
The watershed development programmes are also implemented under the Revised Long Term Action Plan (RLTAP) for KBK districts and Jeebika.
Watershed development programmes are intended to harvest rainwater for irrigation, plantation including horticulture and floriculture, pasture development and fisheries to create sustainable livelihood and augment drinking water supply.
The report also pointed out tardy implementation in certain schemes. After seven to ten years of commencement of the DPAP and IWDP, at least 17 per cent projects under the two schemes were found incomplete. Similarly, though 96 per cent of funds were spent, area covered was just 83 per cent. The CAG, which also raised objection over use of machines instead of labourers in watershed development projects, has asked Department to respond.