Amaravati: With less than a year to go for elections in Andhra Pradesh, the Polavaram project being built across Godavari river is back in the focus in the state politics.
Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy on Tuesday visited the project site to inspect the progress of the work. He directed the Irrigation Department officials to complete the repairs of damaged diaphragm wall at the earliest so that the main project works could be expedited.
The Union Government, which is funding the long-pending mega irrigation project, is insisting that the first phase of the project be completed by June 2024 but the state government has sought time till June 2025.
The state government has conveyed to the Centre that the main reason for the delay in the project works was the delay in the restoration of the diaphragm wall, which suffered severe damages during heavy floods to Godavari river in 2020.
During the phase-1 of the project, the Godavari water would be impounded up to the contour level of 41.15 metres, as against the full reservoir level of 45.72 metres.
Officials said the project will be executed for a scheduled height of 45.72 metres, but in the phase-1, water will be impounded only up to 41.15 metres for the implementation of rehabilitation and resettlement of the project evacuees.
The ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) have been blaming each other for the delay in the project.
Referring to some media reports on the cracks in the guide wall, the Chief Minister on Tuesday expressed displeasure over a section of the media making a mountain out of a molehill.
“The section of the media was silent over the damage of the diaphragm wall caused by the faulty construction of the upper coffer dam as the engineering firm left gaps in it. When the flash floods came, water gushed into the diaphragm wall through the gaps causing severe damage. As the diaphragm wall is the base for the construction of the main dam, the damage caused an extra financial burden of Rs 2,000 crore on the project besides delaying it. The media was silent on this because the contract was given to the relatives of media baron Ramoji Rao by the previous TDP regime,” he said.
Jagan Mohan Reddy said the media is raising a hue and cry unnecessarily over the small damage caused to the guide wall. He said officials should take this seriously and go ahead with necessary steps as it is common to move ahead undertaking repairs wherever necessary.
Officials explained that the designs of the guide wall have been approved by the Central Water Commission (CWC) and it has been informed of the small cracks in the wall. They said repairs would be undertaken as per the suggestion of the CWC.
They also told him that they are expediting work to complete the repairs of the diaphragm wall by December.
At a review meeting, the Chief Minister took stock of the implementation of the rehabilitation and resettlement package for the displaced persons. He directed officials to provide all civic facilities and basic infrastructure simultaneously as the construction of colonies progresses. Officials informed him that 12,658 displaced families have been shifted to the newly-constructed colonies.
He asked the officials to develop the project site as a favoured tourist destination by constructing a hotel and providing other amenities for visitors. He also asked the officials to construct a bridge at Polavaram.
Officials informed him that the Union Finance Ministry has agreed to release Rs 12,911 crore for completion of the first phase of the Polavaram Project and this includes Rs 2,000 crore extra expenditure caused due to the faulty construction of the diaphragm wall during the TDP rule.
The Finance Ministry informed this in a memorandum sent to the Union Water Resources Ministry, officials disclosed, adding that the Centre has also given exemption from compound payment of bills as it is causing project delay.
Jagan Mohan Reddy had recently alleged that TDP President N. Chandrababu Naidu did not even utter the name of Polavaram between 1995 and 2014 and after coming to power, plundered the Polavaram funds. He alleged that the TDP government first took up works that brought big money to it and launched works not so remunerative in the later stage.
“The spill-way works were abandoned at the foundation stage itself to begin the coffer-dam works. Huge cavities were found in the coffer-dam and even approach channel works were not done. Is it possible to construct the coffer dam before spillway works are completed?,” he wondered, and pointed out that the TDPas foolhardy decision saw damage to the diaphragm wall.
Jagan, as the Chief Minister is popularly called, also recalled that it was his late father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy who launched the Polavaram project and as his son, he would complete it.