Hyderabad: The Polavaram project being constructed by Andhra Pradesh across Godavari river has triggered a new row between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
A Telangana minister kicked up the controversy by blaming the project’s height for recent floods in Bhadradri Kothagudem district on the banks of Godavari.
Polavaram project is being executed by the Centre as a national project at Rs 55,000 crore.
Telangana’s Transport Minister P. Ajay Kumar blamed Polavaram for floods in temple town of Bhadrachalam and several villages along the course of the river in Bhadradri Kothagudem district.
He said Telangana had been demanding the neighbouring state to reduce the height of Polavaram to avoid floods at Bhadrachalam and nearby villages due to backwaters.
Following heavy rain in the catchment areas and massive inflows from upstream resulted in the flood level at Bhadrachalam last week crossing 71 feet, the highest in more than three decades.
The demand by Telangana came a few days after Andhra Pradesh raised the height of the upper coffer dam of Polavaram by one metre.
The implementing agency, Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL), took up the work to increase the height on July 15 and completed it in 48 hours.
The Andhra Pradesh government had already decided to increase the height of Polavaram coffer dam from 40.5 meters to 43.5 meters.
The Minister urged the Centre to constitute a committee comprising experts of the Central Water Commission (CWC) to study the backwaters effects of the Polavaram project to Bhadrachalam to avert catastrophic consequences of a potential massive deluge in the future.
The minister also demanded that the Centre return seven mandals (blocks) to Telangana which were merged with Andhra Pradesh in 2014.
He also demanded that at least five villages near Bhadrachalam be re-merged with Telangana and a Bill in this regard be passed in the ongoing Parliament session.
The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had lodged a strong protest with the Centre after it issued an ordinance to merge seven mandals of Telangana with Andhra Pradesh. This was apparently done to avoid any inter-state disputes as several villages in these mandals are likely to be submerged by Polavaram project.
The Telangana government termed the move unilateral and has been demanding the Centre to revoke it.
Telangana minister drew flak from the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government in Andhra Pradesh. Education Minister Botsa Satyanaayan took a dig at Ajay Kumar with the remark that they have no objection if he demands unification of the two Telugu states to once again create united Andhra Pradesh.
A couple of days after this, the Telangana government complained to the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti over what it calls illegal schemes constructed under Polavaram irrigation project.
A senior official of Telangana government wrote to the secretary of the Union Ministry, raising objection to unapproved irrigation schemes.
Telangana termed this as a matter of great concern not only for it but also for other upper riparian states as Andhra Pradesh can draw and utilise more waters than it was allocated.
It urged the Centre to ensure that the capacity and drawals from the two canals under Polavaram project are limited to designated discharges and ensure drawal as per the approved demand table.
The Telangana government urged the Centre to direct Andhra Pradesh to utilize only 493 tmcft of assured waters.
Conceived at a cost of just Rs 6.5 crore before India achieved the Independence to now a whopping Rs 55,000 crore, Polavaram is often described as the most jinxed project in the country.
The project is likely to irrigate over seven lakh acres in Andhra Pradesh, producing 960 megawatt (MW) of hydel energy, providing drinking water to 28.50 lakh people in 611 villages and divert 80 tmcft water to the Krishna river basin.
The work on the much-awaited project began in 2005 but missed many deadlines. The previous deadline set for completion of the project was April 2022.
Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti, Bishweswar Tudu told Rajya Sabha on July 19 that low spending capacity, inadequate construction and contract management, lack of strategic planning and coordination as well as the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the delay. The project is now likely to be completed by June 2024.
The latest row over Polavaram created a new dispute between the two Telugu states. Telangana was so far only raising the issue of unauthorised projects in Krishna basin. It had been urging the Centre to ask Andhra Pradesh to stop work on Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme and Rajolibanda Diversion Schemes.
Ever since the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to carve out Telangana state in 2014, the two states have been sparring over sharing of river waters, especially Krishna river water.
Recently, the two states were engaged in a bitter row over generation of power at Srisailam hydel station by Telangana.
Andhra Pradesh had taken strong exception to power generation but Telangana had defended its move saying there was no other way to meet its large requirement of power for its lift irrigation schemes.
Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) had told Telangana that power generation at Srisailam would be allowed only after meeting the water requirements for irrigation and drinking water purposes in Krishna basin.
Telangana officials had alleged that Andhra Pradesh was raising the issue of power generation to divert attention from Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (LRIS) and other projects being built by it illegally.
At the KRMB meeting, Telangana had also raised the demand for allocation of Krishna water between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the ratio of 50:50 per cent. The board, however, decided to retain water sharing in the river between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the ratio of 66:34 like the last seven years since bifurcation of undivided Andhra Pradesh.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana shared 811 tmcft in the ratio of 512:299 tmcft. Claiming that the agreement to share water in this ratio was temporarily fixed for 2015-16, Telangana wanted the ratio revised to 50:50 till an award was delivered by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal – II.
It argued that the state’s requirement in Krishna increased considerably after the completion of Kalwakurthy, Nettempadu and Bheema lift-irrigation projects.
Andhra Pradesh also wanted the ratio to be revised to 70:30 per cent but the board ruled out any revision.
It also raised objection to the construction of Palamuru Rangareddy, a massive lift irrigation project by Telangana in the guise of drinking water scheme without the Central Water Commission’s approval and necessary environmental clearance to lift 90 tmcft.