Two years after Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced one of the most ambitious irrigation projects in the State, the government has not made any expenditure for its execution.Just before the Bijepur by-election in 2017, the government had announced the State’s first underground irrigation project — Gangadhar Meher Lift Canal System.In response to an RTI query, the government said that the tendering process for the project is yet to be completed.“The administrative sanction for the project, which entails an investment of ₹1,340.55 crore, has been approved by the government. In 2018-19 and 2019-20 budget provision of ₹200 crore and ₹100 crore has been made,” the government said.As per the plan, water will be drawn from Hirakud Dam through Bargarh Main Canal. Over 70 villages to benefitThe water will travel 17.64 km through the pipeline up to Barihapali Secondary Reservoir. From Barihapali reservoir, the water will be delivered to farmers in the designed ayacut area, including 74 villages in Bijepur block. There will be a mix of underground gravity and pressure pipe distribution network with outlets every 4.5 hectare patch of land.It is estimated that an area of about 25,600 hectares would be irrigated in the three blocks. Though the project was to be implemented over five years, no expenditure has been made. “The announcement was meant to deceive voters ahead of the Bijepur polls in 2017 when the BJD and the BJP were locked in a bitter contest. Had the government been serious about the project, it would have been fast-tracked,” alleged Pradip Pradhan, RTI activist.