AP, Telangana to begin joint survey on the backwater effects of Polavaram
The survey will ascertain the extent of submergence areas in Telangana if the water in Polavaram is maintained at full and minimum reservoir levels from July to September
A joint team of irrigation engineers from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will survey the impact of backwaters of Polavaram major irrigation project on the areas in Telangana during the Godavari river floods every year, from Saturday, an official familiar with the matter said on Friday.
The project is being built by Andhra Pradesh government on Godavari river at Polavaram in West Godavari district.
“The joint survey will be done under the aegis of Polavaram Project Authority, a wing of the Union minister of Jal Shakti, as per the guidelines of the National Green Tribunal,” said an irrigation official of Telangana who did not want to be named.
The survey will ascertain the extent of submergence areas in Telangana if the water in Polavaram is maintained at full reservoir level of 45.72 metres and the minimum level of 41.15 metres during the peak flood season from July to September.
It will also study the impact of backwaters of Polavaram on the streams and tributaries like Kinnerasani and Sabari, which might swell due to the impact resulting in submergence of more areas than originally estimated when the project was conceived.
During the recent floods to Godavari river in July, the water level at Bhadrachalam reached 71.3 feet due to discharge of 24.88 lakh cusecs — recording the second highest level after 1986 — and it resulted in submergence of hundreds of villages and thousands of acres of standing crops.
On September 21, Telangana special chief secretary (irrigation) Rajat Kumar had written to Union irrigation secretary Pankaj Kumar suggesting that the Centre commission an independent study to assess the effects of the backwaters of Godavari river due to construction of Polavaram major irrigation project.
He had expressed apprehension that “once the project is completed, there would be massive submergence for about 30 km stretch upstream from the Telangana-AP border on either side of the Godavari river under the backwaters of the project”.
Kumar pointed out that the Central Water Commission had designed the Polavaram project spillway for discharging 50 lakh cusecs against 36 lakh cusecs as envisaged in Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal (GWDT) Award. This would cause much more submergence effect in Telangana, inducing more attenuation of flood peaks.
“This will pose threat to the historical temple town of Bhadrachalam with adjoining villages, the critical Manuguru Heavy Water Plant and Bhadradri Thermal plant all upstream of Polavaram,” he said.
The Telangana government raised the issue again at the meeting of the CWC, PPA and the Godavari riparian states including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh on September 29.
While Andhra Pradesh argued that the Polavaram project designs were approved only after scientifically assessing the impact of backwaters, the other states wanted a fresh study to be conducted in the wake of changing climatic conditions in the Godavari river basin.
Though the Union Jal Shakti ministry initially rejected the demand for a fresh survey of Polavaram backwaters’ impact, it later agreed for such a survey by the irrigation engineers of both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. For Odisha and Chhattisgarh, the Andhra Pradesh government expressed its willingness to compensate for the loss caused due to inundation in some of their areas or strengthen their flood banks.