Polavaram project delay to cause Rs 28,000 crore burden to Andhra: Congress MP
The construction of main dam of the project which began in 2012 picked up pace only after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in June 2014 and was expected to be completed by December 2018.Updated: May 16, 2019 19:15 IST
The delay in execution of the Polavaram irrigation project being constructed on Godavari river in Andhra Pradesh is set to cause a burden of over Rs 28,000 crore on the state government exchequer, senior Congress MP K V P Ramachandra Rao said on Thursday.
The construction of main dam of the project which began in 2012 picked up pace only after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in June 2014 and was expected to be completed by December 2018. Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu claimed before the elections that the project would be completed to a large extent by June 2019 and parts of the project ayacut would get water from the canals through gravity.
However, during the visit to project site on May 6 to review the progress of works, Naidu expressed helplessness in supplying water by gravity this year and revised the deadline for project completion to June 2020.
The Congress MP, in a representation to Governor E S L Narasimhan in Hyderabad, said Naidu was trying to defend himself saying he could not complete the project as per schedule due to non-release of funds by Central government. “Naidu has kept the people in dark as to what is the financial responsibility of state due to the delay,” he said.
Rao pointed out that as per AP Reorganisation Act, the Polavaram project was declared as a national project and the Centre had agreed to provide 100 per cent funding of the project. “As per the act, it was the responsibility of the Centre to fund and execute the project through Polavaram Project Authority (PPA), a special purpose vehicle constituted for the purpose. But, the TDP government had never transferred the assets and liabilities of the project,” he said.
Rao pointed out that in September 2016, the execution of project was handed over to the state government on Naidu’s request with a condition that the state should bear the burden of cost escalations due to cost and time overruns. “Naidu government intentionally delayed the preparation of revised cost estimates and started payments to contractors from state funds,” he alleged.
The Congress leader pointed out that the NDA government had started imposing several conditions on Polavaram expenditure, including the one that the Centre would bear the cost of the project at 2013-14 prices only. While the state government had submitted revised cost estimate of the project at Rs 55,548.87 crore at 2017-18 prices, the Technical Advisory Committee of Ministry of Water Resources in its meeting in February 2019 gave its approval only for Rs 27,081.62 crore as per 2013-14 price level.
“It will mean, the remaining cost of Rs 28,467.25 crore will have to be borne by the state government and the burden will fall on the tax payers of the state,” Rao argued.
The Congress MP said he had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition in the state high court in 2017 seeking a direction to the Centre to bear entire cost of Polavaram Project without any conditions as per Section 90 of AP Reorganization Act.
“While the Centre filed a counter reiterating its stand that it would bear the cost of project as on April 1, 2014 only, the TDP government has not filed any counter till date even after 18 months,” Rao alleged.
He said he would withdraw his PIL if the state or the Centre comes out with a clarification that there was no additional burden on the state exchequer.
A state government official familiar with the project said the Centre should bear the entire cost of the Polavaram project as per the Act. “We told the Centre clearly that the project cost had gone up due to enhanced cost of rehabilitation and resettlement as per the new land acquisition act of 2013,” the official said.
First Published: May 16, 2019 19:15 IST