Four months after issuing a notice to Andhra Pradesh government on south India’s biggest dam project, Polavaram, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh wants to reduce the dam’s height to end confrontation between Andhra and its two neighbouring states --- Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
The state Government has decided to retain the 150-ft height for the dam of the Polavaram project, which many believe can lead to submergence of villages in naxal struck Malkangiri in Orissa and Dantewada in Chhattisgarh and provide ammunition to naxals.
The decision taken on recommendation of a nine-member committee by Preetam Singh, former Chairman of the Central Water Commission (CWC), has irked the two state governments, who alleged they were not consulted before deciding to increase the height by about 60 meters.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh in a letter to Ramesh had complained that increasing the height would lead to huge submergence of land area in Dantewada as compared to environment clearance condition that only four villages will be affected.
The four-page letter also says that Chhattisgarh was never consulted before taking the decision and it such suo motto decision can complicate the naxal problem in the state. He also said the Andhra government has failed to conduct public hearing in the affected areas despite several requests. Orissa has also lodged a similar complaint.
Public hearing is required, in 12 villages in the two states, as per the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) rules. As, the state government failed to conduct public hearing the ministry issued a notice to Andhra Pradesh in November 2010 but it is yet to decide on the issue. Andhra government, in its reply, expressed its inability accusing the two state governments of not cooperating in getting the hearing done.
Although Ramesh told Rajya Sabha on Friday that Polavaram dam was accorded environment clearance in July 2010 with specific conditions but admitted that as per his understanding the three states had agreed to increase the height.
Ramesh assured that the interests of Orissa and Chhattisgarh will not be ignored and said, “I will soon call a meeting of the three states to sort out the issue…To me, the solution is reducing the height of the project.”
While those from Andhra Pradesh including M V Mysura Reddy (TDP) and Jesudasu Seelam (Cong) wanted fast clearance for the project, Pyarimohan Mohapatra (BJD) blamed the Central Water Commission (CWC) for increasing the height of the dam with the "connivance" of the AP government.
The minister also said that the request of state government to increase the height of the project was under consideration and no final decision has been taken.