The government should appoint an Irrigation Commission to look at the role of the whole irrigation strategy and revive the current uncertainties in project implementation, writes RC Sinha. Maharashtra State has a large number of Talukas which have been declared chronic draught affected. Heavy rainfall is confined to the western seaward side of Sahyadri Hills and beyond that towards the east is rain-shadow zone. Most of the heavy rain fall gets drained into the Arabian Sea. After the formation of Maharashtra, a Committee, named Barve Committee, concluded that the total area of irrigated land in Maharashtra with all possible efforts will be 25 per cent. For the last two decades there has been over-exploitation of underground water as a result the water table has gone very deep. Free electricity for agriculture has led to severe wastage of underground water damaging the situation further. This has led to the situation that we need irrigation dams for storage of water, may be huge dams for canal irrigation. Smaller tanks are required for the purpose of percolation, and there is a need for check dams of the flowing nullahs so that water gets percolated before flowing into the sea. However, there is emphasis on big dams. Every politician wants big dam in his constituency and pressurises government for sanction and when it comes to the question of land acquisition same person/party opposes it. At the time of 7th Five Year Plan, a decision was taken that there are enough irrigation dams under construction and completion of those project would take the entire allocation for irrigation purpose during the 7th and 8th Five Year Plan as well as most of the 9th Five Year Plan period. The Cabinet took a decision that no new projects need to be undertaken till the unfinished projects were completed. This decision was flouted within months. There have been many reasons for cost over-run in the projects. To get the project approved, the Irrigation Department deliberately estimates lower cost to get included in the Plan and gets sanction. If the entire project cost is not estimated, how is it possible to complete the project without a cost over-run? The cost of land acquisition and rehabilitation is never fully provided in the cost of the project. Land acquisition and rehabilitation is in influx in Maharashtra and sometimes this policy becomes project-specific. Irrigation Corporation in Maharashtra was floated basically to utilise the share of Krishna River water allotted to the state. The purpose of this corporation was only to raise funds from financial institutions in addition to government funds. Establishment of this corporation led at times to duplication of work between the department and the corporation. The corporation being an independent body took decisions without detailed financial scrutiny which included increase in the upwards revision of tender cost.Officials of the Irrigation Department and contractors were more interested in construction than completing the projects. The funds spent are not commensurate to the benefit of the agriculturist. There are over 700 projects under implementation which means that virtually each taluka has a project. There are also projects where dam has been completed but the irrigation canal and distributaries have not been done. As a result water has been stored but has not reached the agricultural fields. Irrigation projects suffer from cost and time over-run and uncoordinated as well as unplanned construction. The government should consider appointing an Irrigation Commission not only to look at the cost and time over-run and unutilised storage of water which has taken place in the irrigation projects but also the role of the whole irrigation strategy. The Commission should also recommend the policy for land acquisition, rehabilitation of project affected persons and monitoring of the projects. The Commission should scrutinise and recommend reduction of excess staff in the Irrigation Department which is becoming a reverse pyramid. There is so much cost and time over-run and wasteful expenditure then what is the benefit of having such a large number of chief engineers. The Commission should examine the need of so many irrigation corporations. There should be either Corporation or Irrigation Department. The Commission should fix responsibility at all levels and recommend action to be taken against those who are directly responsible for contributing to this state of affairs of the irrigation projects.