The ambitious project was expected to irrigate about 2,50,800 hectares of land in three districts in eastern Vidarbha (Nagpur, Bhandara and Chandrapur) but so far it has created an irrigation potential for only 36,894 hectares. Over the decades, the government has spent about Rs 6,073 crores and would require an estimate of another Rs 7,665 crores to finish the project, which was inaugurated by late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on April 22, 1988.
The much hyped project, which might have brought relief to hundreds of farmers in eastern Vidarbha, has failed to make any impact on the socio-economic life and scene in the region. The dream was conceived in 1983 and then Lok Sabha MP from Chimur constituency, Vilas Muttemwar had persuaded Rajiv Gandhi to launch the project in 1988.
The original cost of the project was estimated at Rs 372.22 crores but when actually the foundation was laid, it increased to Rs 634 crores. Sharad Pawar was the Chief Minister at the time of launch but successive governments in Maharashtra did not make much allocation for the project, Muttemwar said. After several years, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi during her election campaign in 2004-05 promised to speed up the project which was launched by her husband, he told PTI.
Muttemwar had demanded from the Centre to declare it as a national project and followed it up with then Union Minister for Water Resources, Dasmunshi. In 2007-2008, the Centre agreed to share 90 percent of the cost to the tune of Rs 4,500 crores and 10 percent was to be shared by Maharashtra Government (Rs 500 crore) while declaring it as national project. When Vilasrao Deshmukh assumed Chief Ministership in state, he took interest and enhanced the provision for the project, which were earlier very meagre, Muttemwar said. The project on Vainganga river which flows from Balaghat (MP) to Pranhita river (Gadchiroli), was also marred by several alleged irregularities, violation of norms, sub standard work, breach in canals and charges of corruption, leaving it unfinished.