6 years on: Irrigation project in limbo

ESS AHMAD. Dated: 11/9/2017 11:49:48 PM

SRINAGAR, Nov 9: In 2011 central government approved worth over Rs 400- crore project to boost the saffron cultivation in valley particularly in Pampore Karewa famous for its beauty and production of the prized crop. Besides guiding the farmers in sowing the seed providing irrigation facilities to the farmers was listed one of the main major components of the scheme.
The main nodal agency, agriculture department which was supposed to implement the scheme 'National Saffron Mission' outsourced the irrigation component of the scheme to the Mechanical Engineering Department (MED).
The MED, officials in agriculture department said, was supposed to dig the wells, connect them with the sprinklers and then lay down the network distribution system to ensure the Irrigation facilities are provided to every single farmer. However, six years after the scheme was introduced the MED is yet to complete the project.
"Agriculture department has already released around Rs 30 crore to MED for the purpose but despite the availability of funds the department has failed to complete the project," sources said.
Though the MED has dug around hundred wells out of 126 but it miserably failed to connect them to sprinklers.
"MED in around six years has only dug some hundred wells but has failed to lay down the network distribution system for irrigation of fields. Had the department completed the project on time the saffron production won't have witnessed disturbing decline this year due to pronlonged dry spell," said a saffron grower Sajad Ahmad.
He also accused the agriculture department, the nodal agency for implementing the scheme of failing to monitor the progress of work on the irrigation system being laid by MED.
Director Agriculture, Altaf Andrabi said that he has written almost forty letters to MED asking it to speep up the work but nothing happened. "Besides I took up the issue at higher levels many a time. Chief Minister is now herself monitoring the project," the Director said.
However superintending engineer, MED, Mushtaq Jan blamed the land mafia and saffron growers for disrupting their work.
"We have only three to four months during which we can work in the saffron fields. And whenever we used to go there and start work farmers were not allowing us to work. Actually land mafia was operating there which wanted to convert the saffron land for residential and commercial purposes and was provoking the farmers," SE said.
He said that after the decline in production this year farmers realised the importance of Irrigation system and have started cooperating with them.
"Farmers have now started cooperating with us and we are hopeful of the completion of the project by the deadline which is March end," the SE said.



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