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‘Jalyukt Shivar project not based on sound principles’

HM Desarda

Nagpur :  Maharashtra government’s ‘Jalyukt Shivar’ water conservation initiative, a pet project of Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis, has come in for sharp criticism from a former member of the State Planning Board who claims that it is not based on “sound principles”.

Challenging the Chief Minister’s claims about the decentralised village-level water conservation project, economist HM Desarda, who was in the city yesterday to address a national consultation on the agrarian crisis, told reporters that it was an “empty slogan”.

Desarda, who is currently attached to the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics in Pune, said, “Jalyukt Shivar is the new name given to an aggregation of several old water conservation schemes. But it is not based on sound hydrological principles and scientific concept of ridge-to-valley, though on paper it is shown to be so.”

He opined that the figure of 24 TMC of water which the government claims has been conserved in the last few months through the project is totally inflated and “far from true”.

“There is no concurrent evaluation. I have visited some of the sites and found that the works lack scientific support,” he said while also making allegations of irregularities in the project.

“Shivar is being promoted at the cost of irrigation dams and funds are being diverted to it,” he further charged.

“I am asking the state government to set up a panel of experts to assess Jalyukt Shivar and prove its efficacy in even 50 of the 5,000 villages it is supposed to have benefited,” Desarda said, adding that his PIL against the state water resources department is pending before Bombay High Court.

Recently, the principal bench of Bombay High Court comprising Justices Abhay Oak and Gautam Patel had directed the Maharashtra Chief Secretary to brief the petitioner on the Shivar plan.

“Shivar is being pursued as a standalone project when it should be integrated with soil studies and vegetation, which are a must for water retention and recharging,” said Desarda.

Desarda had recently met Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and demanded implementation of comprehensive crop loss and livelihood security insurance for all farmers through government-supported schemes.

“Recurrent droughts and water scarcity are consequences of erroneous agricultural and overall growth policies. The chemical toxicity in soil needs to be controlled to check climate change and extremities,” he said.

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