Patna: Bihar water resources department minister Vijay Kumar Chaudhury on Friday contradicted the claim of Congress president Sonia Gandhi that Lok Sabha Speaker and Congress candidate from Sasaram, Meira Kumar had expedited the Durgawati reservoir project. He said the project was sanctioned in 1975 when Rs 25 crore was allotted for the execution of the project.
In a statement here, Chaudhury said the Centre delayed the project on different grounds for the last 39 years, resulting in cost escalation and now the project would cost Rs 1,064 crore. The Centre delayed forest clearance and cases were filed against the then irrigation minister and principal secretary of the department for violation of the Forest Conservation Act.
It was due to the initiative of Bihar CM Nitish Kumar in 2005 that fresh efforts could be made to execute the project, he recalled and said the Union forest and environment ministry repeatedly raised objections even after the state government deposited Rs 350 crore under the compensatory afforestation plan.
The Supreme Court finally allowed execution of the scheme in December 2011 and work started in April 2012, he said. Chaudhury said the Centre was expected to bear 90% of the project cost but even after several reminders, the central share was not released. He alleged the Union water resources ministry was delaying execution of the project for the last two years. The state government has given employment to 184 people who were displaced due to the project at Karamchat and Murli villages, Chaudhury said and hoped water from the reservoir would be released for irrigation purpose by the year-end.
Sonia Gandhi, at an election meeting at Sasaram on Thursday, had claimed it was due to Meira Kumar that the project could be expedited and had blamed the state government for delay in its execution.