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Tweaked norms derail CM's ambitious Jal Yukt Shivar programme

Saturday, February 10, 2018
By Prashant Hamine

Thanks to the tweaking of technical criteria based on the recommendations of scientific institutions, the flagship programme of Jal Yukt Shivar (JYS) of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has effectively been derailed.

Sources in the government disclosed that norms of project site selection, restriction on use of machinery, moisture content and other norms were changed at the behest of water conservation experts from scientific institutions. Moreover, a few Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) working in the field of water conservation challenged the way people used to dig and widen trenches meant for water flows or nullahs.

This change in the technical criteria has drastically reduced the number of villages and amount spent on the scheme. As per official documents accessed by Afternoon D&C, the number of villages selected for the scheme has come down from 6,202 in 2015-16 to 5,291 in 2016-17. The unique identity of the JYS was its public participation in water conservation works.

In the first year of scheme that was started three years ago, more than 11,000 villages were selected and more than Rs 3,000 crore were spent.
However, this year only 6,000 villages could be selected and the amount sanctioned has come down to just Rs 1,800 crore. Sources pointed out that the JYS is nothing but an amalgamation or convergence of various water conservation schemes implemented by the Water Conservation department since the last 20 years. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis renamed the scheme to JYS in 2015.

Speaking to newspersons here yesterday, senior BJP leader and former minister Eknath Khadse disclosed that the changes made in the technical criteria has effectively slowed down the pace of the implementation of the scheme in the last few months. He added that in the first year in 2015 the scheme received overwhelming public response and participation which was huge and unexpected. Even some Corporate companies contributed generously towards the scheme as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative.

He added that earlier the Gram Sabha of the village was empowered to select the site of cement nullah bunding, digging and widening of nullahs. Khadse stated that some NGO's some organisations challenged the scheme and argued that these norms would disturb the natural power of water holding capacity of the sand and soil. Water conservation expert Professor H M Desarda had challenged the JYS guidelines in the Bombay High Court in 2015 seeking to amend them. Since then the government constituted a committee headed by former chief secretary Johny Joseph following HC directives.

Desarda argued that the government should have adopted the “ridge to valley approach” while implementing the scheme instead of deepening and widening of nullahs. The groundwater Surveys and Development Agency (GSDA) too had suggested changes in the selection of sites and hence the government came up with strict norms.

In 2015-16, government spent Rs 3,845.01 crore on JYS, whereas in 2016-17, the government spent Rs 2,363.76 crore on JYS. In 2015-16 the JYS created a water storage of 10.92 lakh TMC (thousand million cubic feet), whereas in 2016-17 a water storage of just 5.89 lakh TMC was created.

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