Patna, April 18 (IANS) After more than three decades, much-awaited work on the Durgawati reservoir project on the Sone river began Wednesday in Bihar's Rohtas district, officials said.
"Finally, work on the project has begun," Bihar Water Resources Minister Vijay Kumar Choudhary said.
Choudhary said that with the work kicked off, the project would be completed in the next two years. "We hope that the reservoir will be operational in 2014. It would be a big help to farmers for irrigation," he said.
According to officials of the department, around 33,467 hectares of land in the state's "rice bowl", the districts of Kaimur and Rohtas, would be irrigated when the project is completed.
The project was in limbo for the last 37 years which cost the state exchequer Rs.696 crore in raising the structure of the reservoir and canal system. An additional Rs.400 crore would be pumped in for completion of the project work in the next two years, department officials said.
"The cost of the project has gone up from its initial estimate of Rs.25 crore to Rs.1096 crore now. Over the period, it has seen cost escalations by almost 50 times," officials said.
The project foundation was laid in 1976 by the then central water resources minister Jagjivan Ram.
Officials blamed successive state and central governments for delay in the project.
"The project was delayed for decades because it ran at snail's pace for want of adequate funds and the objections raised by the central government. It directed the closure of the project stating that first the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act had to be complied with," officials said.
Last year, after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar took a keen interest in the project, the central ministry of environment and forests gave environment clearance, paving the way for resumption of project work.
Officials associated with the project said that contracts have been awarded for completing pending works like construction of spill canals, radial gates and approach canals.
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