A budget crunch is likely to hit irrigation projects as the caretaker government has failed to bring a full budget and has only brought an interim public expenditure arrangement twice for regular salaries, continuation of projects of national pride, and to mobilise revenue.
"There might be a shortfall of Rs 4 billion to Rs 5 billion for irrigation projects by the end of the current fiscal year," said secretary at the ministry of irrigation Pratap Kumar Pathak during the budgetary review meeting.
The ministry has signed a Performance Agreement with the heads of three irrigation projects of national pride — Sikta, Ranijamara Kulariya and Babai — and Morang Sunsari Irrigation Project is in the implementation phase, he informed, adding that the projects under the ministry are on the right track. "The ministry will be able to spend 100 per cent capital expenditure by the end of the current fiscal year, and will fall short of around Rs five billion."
Situated in Banke of the mid western development region, Sikta Irrigation Project is expected to help cultivate around 33,766 hectares of land — almost all the low lands of Banke that have a significant economic impact on the whole of the mid western development region.
Though the concept of Sikta Irrigation Project was first formulated in pre-feasibility studies conducted in 1975-1976, the project is going to cost Rs 12.80 billion and is listed as a national pride project.
Likewise, the Ranijamara Kulariya project, which is projected to cost Rs 12.78 billion, has also been listed as a project of national pride by successive governments.
These irrigation projects will help irrigate most of the southern plains and despite it being a food basket of the country it has been dependent on rainfall for harvest.
Finance secretary Shanta Raj Subedi, on the occasion, asked Pathak to inform the Finance Ministry, if the Ministry of Irrigation faces a budget crunch and urged it boost capital expenditure.
"All the ministries should report 25 per cent of capital expenditure by Poush-end (January 14)," Subedi added. According to the fiscal calendar, mid-January marks the half of the fiscal year that started in mid-August.
Similarly, secretary at the Ministry of Urban Planning Kishor Thapa also briefed the status of his ministry. "Of the 40 projects under the ministry, Melamchi Water Project has been prioritised," he informed, adding that the ministry might need Rs 900 million for Rural Drinking Water and Sanitation Programme.During the meeting, caretaker finance minster Barshaman Pun asked the secretaries to closely monitor Priority one, Priority two and Priority three projects for their timely completion as they will have greater development and economic impact.