Maharashtra & Telangana governments, it has been announced, will be signing a pact for three irrigation projects to be constructed on River Godavari. Under the agreement, the two states would take up Tummidihatti, Medigadda (Kaleswaram) and Chanaka–Korata projects. Chief Minister of Telangana K Chandrasekhar Rao has reportedly said that “this would herald a new era in the relations between the two states and would be a standing example of how the states can resolve inter-state disputes without the Centre’s intervention.”[i]
This pact which has been looked at as ‘historical victory’ for Telangana for convincing the neighbouring states is in fact one of the most blatant and outright violations of India’s environmental laws. Tummidihetti Project & Medigadda Project featured in the agreement have long history of gross irregularities and violations exposed by several apex agencies as well as media. SANDRP has visited these project sites multiple times, studied and written extensively about the projects and also repeatedly sent submissions to Chief Minister of Maharashtra pointing out the violations. The agreement is also being signed, keeping the affected people and also people in the Godavari river basin in two states completely in the dark. Some of the links for these articles are given at the end of this article.
Tummidihetti Project is in fact an altered version of much controversial “Dr. B.R Ambedkar Pranahitha Chevella Sujala Sravanthi Project” popularly known as ‘Pranahita Chevella project’. This project was originally planned to divert 160 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet) water from river Pranahita (a major tributary of Godavari River) by constructing a barrage at Tummidi Hetti village in Adilabad District of Telangana to irrigate 6,63,700 ha area in seven districts of the state. In addition to irrigation, 10 TMC of water was to be provided as drinking water to the villages enroute, 30 TMC as drinking water to twin cities of Hyderabad & Secundrabad and 16 TMC to be provided as industrial water. Proposed FRL (Full Reservoir Level) of the project was 152 m. Transfer of this water was proposed through 19 lifts, 1055 KM of canals and 209 KM of tunnels. Land requirement was whopping 34,000 ha. Total submergence was 2485 Ha out of which 2123.4 Ha (80%) fell within Maharashtra including 980 Ha of forest land including parts of Chaparala Wildlife Sanctuary.
The project has already been under construction illegally (without obtaining any statutory clearances) for last more than two years.[ii] Construction of the canals for Pranahita Chevella project was started hastily without obtaining EC, forest clearance (FC), wildlife clearance (WC), without sorting out interstate aspects or without even finalizing the height of the dam or assessing any feasibility. The project has been a highlight of Jalayagyam scam unearthed by Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) report for the then Andhra Pradesh state in 2012.
Contracts for the project were awarded during May 2008 and May 2009 and even when the DPR had not been submitted.[iii] DPR for the project was submitted in April 2010. By 2012 contracts worth 21,843 Cr were awarded. Interstate agreement was signed by Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh in May 2012 much before constituting an Inter State Board.[iv] Height of the dam was finalized only in December 2015.[v] And an interstate board to “resolve pre-construction, construction & post construction issues” was formed as late as January 2016.[vi]
The original design of Pranahita Chevella project harbored several technical shortcomings. The project could not secure environmental clearance, wildlife clearance and clearance from Central Water Commission (CWC) and the infeasibility of the project was pointed out by different apex agencies like CAG, CWC, Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change etc. Standing Committee on Water Resources for Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation in its report submitted to 16th Lokasabha in December 2015 specifically points to the original project stating “The proposal was discussed in a meeting taken by Additional Secretary, MoWR,RD&GR on 8.5.2015. The project authority informed during the meeting they are in a process of revising the project proposal. Accordingly, the State Government has been requested to confirm the revision of proposal and submit the revised DPR. There are serious design faults in the existing proposal.”[vii]
Finally after spending more than Rs 8700 Crores of Public Money the project had to be restructured due to several technical shortcomings and unavailability of adequate water. In May 2015 it was decided that Main barrage of Pranahita Chevella project would come up at Medigadda near Kaleswaram instead of Tummidi Hatti where only a mini-barrage will be constructed.[viii] Non-availability of waters in Godavari at Tummidi Hatti was one of the reasons stated along with objections raised by Maharashtra. Telangana state irrigation advisor R Vidyasagar Rao explained that though the state government was eligible to use 160 TMC water from Godavari, the actual available water was only 130 to 140 TMC at Tummidi Hatti.
The current version of the Tummidihetti project (which is a smaller version of Pranahita Chevella project) proposes to divert 20 TMC water instead of 160 TMC by constructing a barrage across river Pranahitha near the confluence of rivers Wardha and Wainganga at Tummidi Hetti (V), in Adilabad District of Telangana State. Command of the project has been reduced to 80,937 Ha (2,00,000 acres) in just single district viz. East Adilabad instead of seven. The FRL of the Barrage at Tummidi Hetti is now reduced from 152.000M to 148.000M. Due to the shifting of Alignment, the length of barrage increased from 3.40 Km to 6.47 Km including non-overflow section and earth bund. Project now claims zero submergence (outside riverbed).
Medigadda barrage is a part of Kaleswaram LIS comprising of three barrages to come up at Medigadda, Annaram and Sundilla. The Medigadda barrage is being proposed with a 100-metre FRL to store 16.17 TMC of water, the Annaram with 120-metre FRL to store 3.52 TMC and Sundilla barrage with 130-metre FRL to store 1.62 TMC of water.[ix] Following the same pattern Medigadda Kaleshwaram project has been inaugurated by Telangana Chief Minister in May 2016 even when dam height, location has not been finalized and DPR is yet to be prepared.[x] Bids have been invited for Kaleshwaram project for construction of barrage.[xi] SANDRP has written to Chief Minister of Maharashtra about these violations and silent consent of the state.[xii]
Tummidihetti project was once again submitted to the EAC (during its latest meeting on Aug 11-12, 2016, it is not clear what has been the decision of EAC, but in any case, the project will take many years before it gets statutory clearances, the current EAC consideration is only for TOR of EIA) for grant of terms of reference to conduct environmental impact assessment which is mandatory to secure environmental clearance (EC) without any remote mention of this dark background.
Government of Telangana has taken up six other projects in the region along with the three projects forming a part of the pact including Lower Penganga & Lendi. Construction of total 10 dams & barrages is involved here. (list given at the end)
Series of such projects are bound to have a large cumulative impact on the River, its hydrology, biodiversity, environment, and the society that depends on the river for livelihoods and various services that the river provides. Even so the developer has given a negative answer for section 9.4 of Form I (submitted to MoEF for TOR clearance for the EAC meeting on Aug 11-12, 2016) which is about cumulative impacts due to proximity to other existing or planned projects with similar effects. The surrounding region is home for wildlife sanctuaries like Chaprala, Pranahita Santuary and important forest ranges like Sironcha, Alapalli. This region is extremely important as it is a corridor for the near-extinct Wild Buffalo movement from their habitat of Kolamarka forest area in Gadchiroli district to Indravati Tiger Reserve in Chattisgarh.[xiii] This is in addition to Pranhita Sanctuary in Telanganga, also in Adilabad District and adjoining the Pranhita River. This Protected Area (PA) is also a Tiger habitat and there is no clarity about the impact of the string of proposed projects on this PA.
This is but a snapshot of host of irregularities of the project. Confusion and chaos at the actual dam sites is even more serious. Survey work for Pranahita Chevella project & Medigadda project have been started keeping the local people completely in dark. Fearing protests from the region no information has been disclosed till date. Villagers from both the sites have made repeated requests to the irrigation officials, collector, tehsildar even to the staff conducting surveys to put the details of the project in open, have a dialogue with likely affected villages and only then proceed with the projects. However everyone including Chief Minister of Government of Maharashtra has chosen to keep mum and silently go ahead with the agreement. Survey work for Medigadda project in fact was completed giving police protection to the irrigation officials.
Villagers from Sironcha tehsil (Maharashtra) likely to be affected by this project have sent a submission to Tehsildar stating that they condemn this pact being signed with complete disregard to the likely affected population. Requesting for an urgent public hearing they have indicated that severe protest will be raised if their voices are ignored.
All these projects (being taken up under the proposed Maharashtra – Telangana interstate water sharing agreement proposed to be signed on Aug 23, 2016) are involved in blatant violations of the Environmental Laws, waste of public money and environmental damage caused by careless and half-done work without basic studies and silent consent granted by both the state governments to such anti people and illegal acts.
This is also one of the most blatant and highlighted cases of violations. It is in fact appalling to see how the pact is being touted as a ‘victory’. It seems more like a victory over law of land and people’s fundamental rights.
We would appeal to the governments and Chief Minister of two states to not to enter into agreements that involves projects that violations of laws. Moreover, no such agreement should be signed till there is Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the gram sabhas of all the villages in the basins and till the projects involved has all the clearances. Else, such half baked agreement will neither help the people nor the projects.
Amruta Pradhan,firstname.lastname@example.org, SANDRP
Links for SANDRP articles about the projects:
List of projects taken up by Telangana around Pranahita Chevella Project (Source: Pre-Feasibility Report of Chanaka Korata Project)
|Name of the project||River basin||Status||Location (District)||Storage (TMC)|
|Chanaka Korata (Rudha)||Penganga||Proposed||Yavatmal
[i] The Hans India (2016): “Historic water pact with Maharashtra on Aug 23”, The Hans India, August 21, 2016
[ii] As stated in documents obtained by SANDRP from Chandrapur Irrigation Division of Maharashtra
[iii] CAG (2012): Report on Jalayagnam, Op.Cit., Chapter 4, p.27
[iv] As stated in the pact signed between Government of Maharashtra & Telangana for constituting the Inter State Board
[v] The Hindu (2015): “End in sight for Pranahita-Chevella issue”, B. Chandrashekhar, The Hindu, December 21, 2015
[vi] As per the pact signed between Government of Maharashtra & Telangana for constituting the Inter State Board
[vii] MoWR (2015): Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Demands For Grants (2014-2015), Sixth Report submitted to Sixteenth Loksabha, December 2015
[viii] Indian Express (2015): “Main Barrage on Pranahita at Medigadda, Says Government Advisor”, Op.Cit.
[ix] Indian Express (2015): “Main Barrage on Pranahita at Medigadda, Says Government Advisor”, Op.Cit.
[x] SANDRP (2016): “Medigadda Kaleshwaram Project: Prompt Repetition of Old Mistakes”, Amruta Pradhan, SANDRP, May 16, 2016
[xi] Projects Today (2016): Database of projects across India, Projects Today
[xii] The submissions could be accessed at
[xiii] SANDRP (2015): “Pranahita-Chevella Project: Gargantuan Project with Gargantuan Violations”, Amruta Pradhan & Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP, January 10, 2015