'Won’t talk about critics, will prove my mettle'

Won’t talk about critics, will prove my mettle through work: Ramesh Jarkiholi

interview

Ramesh Jarkiholi

Much was read between the lines when the eldest of the Jarkiholi brothers, Ramesh Jarkiholi, was appointed as the Water Resources Minister in the BS Yediyurappa government. Completing 100 days in office, he talks to Shruthi HM Sastry about speculations over his appointment, various ongoing projects and the roadmap for the future. Excerpts:

Much of the government’s works have reached a standstill due to the COVID-19 lockdown. Will you have to cut down on projects this year? 

I don’t think any of the department’s projects will take a backseat. We are confident that the funds coming into the water resources department will not be cut, as the chief minister is very keen on developing irrigation in the state. Not just this, we will also try to convince the Centre on giving us funds as and when needed.

The first phase of the much-delayed Yettinahole project was planned to be commissioned this year. It has now been put off till next year. Will the project actually see the light of the day in the scheduled time?  

The work took a hit because of the ongoing situation with COVID-19. It will one hundred percent be completed by next year. The target is to complete the first phase of lift component and canal (a stretch of 37 km) work by March next. This will give us ample time to commission it by the lifting period next year, which is June to September. We are committed to complete this as it is important for Kolar and Chikkaballapur regions. Post that, we have kept a two-year window to complete the project.

The Mahadayi project was another big announcement that came from the state government this year. Given the situation, do you think you will be able to commence work this year at all?

Despite the prevalent situation, from our end, we have begun the process. The gazette notification for both Kalasa and Bandura canals is already done. The related proposals have been sent to both the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change and the Central Water Commission. Whatever issues remain with regard to clearance of the project, I have discussed it with the officials concerned at the Centre. We will try our best to commence the work by the next working season, that is, after September. We cannot take up any work during the monsoon season and will have to wait until after that.

The state government has recently given an in-principle approval for the Navali balancing reservoir, also seeking a Detailed Project Report (DPR). What is the timeline for completion of the DPR?

The DPR will take about six or seven months to be completed. I have already visited the site to understand the ground-level issues. The project also requires us to resolve interstate issues with Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. We will contact the officials concerned and resolve those issues. Construction of the balancing reservoir comes as a solution to the issue of silt deposition in Tungabhadra dam. The total storage of the dam is 133 TMC of water, but silt accumulation over the years has reduced its capacity by 32 TMC of water. Construction of this reservoir will help us optimise water usage, benefitting in Ballari, Raichur and Koppal regions.  

Land acquisition issue has been a major problem for the department, slowing down projects. How do you propose to resolve the issue?

In all, about Rs 3,000 crore is required for land acquisition for the projects in the pipeline. The department is looking to mobilise the funds by creating a separate head of accounts. The focus is on speeding up the land acquisition process while ensuring that the farmers do not suffer losses.

In the 2020-21 state budget, the government has announced that irrigation facilities will be provided to one lakh acres of land. Can you elaborate on this?

There is a total of 11.5 lakh hectares of land that have the potential to be irrigated in the state. This year, we have targeted one lakh hectares. We have planned accordingly and will begin work soon. I have toured the entire state in the last couple of months to closely study the irrigation requirements.

You were hellbent on getting the water resources portfolio. This was seen as an attempt to prove a point to your political rival DK Shivakumar, who held the same portfolio before you took charge. 

I don’t want to talk about criticism. Whatever I want to prove, I will prove it through my work.

What are the targets you have set for yourself during your tenure as the water resources minister?

I don’t want to limit myself to one or two projects. I want to ensure that all the ongoing projects are completed. As a minister, I represent the interests of the entire state and hence, I want to ensure equitable development across the state. All my efforts will be focused in this direction.

What do you think are your achievements over the past hundred days?

The main focus of the department is irrigation, but the attention of the department was diverted towards other issues over the past few years. We are now bringing back the focus to irrigation. We are also working towards a comprehensive farmer-centric micro irrigation policy and a policy for lift irrigation, which will help the state evolve guidelines for maintenance of equipment and infrastructure required for lift irrigation. 

 

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