BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday defended the Jalyukta Shivar water conservation scheme launched when he was chief minister of Maharashtra and said deepening of river beds under the project could have in fact helped in reducing the impact of floods in Marathwada.
Fadnavis's comment came after some experts claimed that "unscientific" works done under Jalyukta Shivar led to flooding after heavy rains in the Marathwada region a few days ago.
Speaking to reporters here, Fadnavis said, "I heard that some experts have blamed the Jalyukta Shivar scheme saying it accelerated damage to soil and crops in Marathwada due to the unprecedented rains in the last couple of days.
"People should know that Bombay High Court had appointed an expert committee which had stated that the scheme was technically perfect and flawless." The Leader of Opposition, who was CM from 2014-19, said the water conservation scheme, discontinued after the Shiv Sena-led MVA government assumed office in November 2019, could have helped in lessening the impact of devastating floods.
"The high court-appointed committee had people from IIT Bombay as well as other experts. It submitted a detailed report to the court and it was upheld by judges," Fadnavis said.
"In fact, I would rather say that deepening and widening of river beds (under the scheme) accommodated more water and avoided it from spilling over river banks," he said.
The scheme was launched for construction of check dams, rejuvenation of old check dams, repair of weirs and storage tanks and removal of encroachments from river beds so as to increase water percolation.
Earlier this week, heavy water discharge from the Manjara dam in Marathwada following heavy rains caused flooding in some villages of Beed, Latur and Osmanabad districts, damaging crops and homes.
Pradeep Purandare, former associate professor at the Water and Land Management Institute in Aurangabad, claimed that "rampant and unscientific" deepening and widening of river beds in Marathwada and construction of weirs led to the recent floods in the region.
Environmentalist Atul Deulgaonkar said under the scheme, desilting of rivers was done and the huge amount of sediment that was taken out was dumped on banks.
"During heavy showers, the sediment returned to the river bed and reduced its water holding capacity," he said.
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