Dam Disaster

2022: When Polavaram project further unraveled

(Feature Image: Flood water discharging from Polavaram Project to the downstream, in West Godavari district, on Jyly 12, 2022. The Hindu)

Polavaram is the largest and costliest big dam project under construction in India currently, though not much has been written about this projects and its impacts in mainstream in India. The project was given various clearances through a manipulated process, basic studies were not done before clearing it. Several petitions are pending before the various High Courts and the Supreme Court of India, but the project is allowed to go ahead without resolving them or the inter-state issues. A number of issues related to the project has been unravelling over the years and in 2022, the project further unraveled as the news reports compiled here reveal.

A snapshot of the status at Polavaram Project: The downstream coffer dam is damaged, the Gap 1 and Gap 2 of the Dam are yet to be constructed, the 1.7 km long Diaphragm wall of the ECRF dam is submerged in flood waters, it was earlier damaged (scoured at two places over an an area of 200 m X 200 m) in 2019 floods implying additional expenditure of Rs 600 cr, the water flow at the dam site on July 15, 2022 was highest since 1920 for July, the assessment of the earlier damage to the diaphragm wall and future options that was underway when the floods struck in the second week of July 2022, had to be stopped while still incomplete, the rehabilitation colonies have been submerged as the engineers assessment proved wrong about their elevation. There is an uncertainty on the structural stability of the other facilities of the irrigation project due to incomplete construction of the main dam, as it is receiving an unprecedented inflow. The height of the upper Coffer dam was increased by 1 m to 44 m between 17 and 19 July, 2022, in the middle of high floods, but that had impact on upstream Telangana and they opposed that this was done without consulting them.

The Andhra Pradesh Water Resources Minister admitted the situation is scary at the dam site on July 15 2022. AP High Court had passed an order in 2017 that no work on the project should be undertaken before completing the rehabilitation of the affected people due to any such work. That order remains violated.

In Sept 2022 the Andhra WR Minister announced that the damaged ECRF diaphragm wall work cannot be taken up till an assessment is done about the damage and what is the best way forward. There are many unanswered questions here. Why was the work of the diaphragm wall taken up before completing the lower coffer dam? What were the CWC, PPA and central government doing, besides the Andhra govt? Why no probe is being instituted? How poorly this reflects on India’s and CWC’s dam safety management when this is the state at the costliest and the largest under construction dam in India?

The backwater study even in upstream Telangana (such a study is also required in upstream Odisha and Chhattisgarh) is now being undertaken after it was found that with a peak discharge of 21.59 lakh cusecs at Polavaram in July 2022, there was heavy backwater impact and drainage congestion along some 36 streams in Telangana. This shows how shoddy is the work of both the Andhra govt and CWC, since CWC cleared the project based on such studies by Andhra Pradesh. Current estimates suggest that at least 872 acres of additional land may under water for at least eight months in a year. More temporarily in monsoon. Again too many questions without any answers.


Polavaram Project Experts visit for repairing diaphragm wall The diaphragm wall of the Polavaram dam is already damaged, it got scoured at two places over an area of 200 meters x 200 meters each when Godavari River witnessed floods. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/230422/experts-inspect-polavaram-for-repairing-diaphragm-wall.html  (23 April 2022)

Water Resources Minister Ambati Rambabu said that the 12-member experts committee sent by the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti has confirmed that a damage was done to the 1.7-km-long diaphragm wall of the Polavaram irrigation project during the floods. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/andhra-pradesh-expert-panel-confirms-damage-to-polavaram-diaphragm-wall-during-floods/article65446949.ece  (22 May 2022)

Experts inspect damaged Polavaram diaphragm wall A joint team of experts from National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC), Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) inspected the extent of damage caused to diaphragm wall of Polavaram dam at the project site in Eluru district on June 28, 2022. NHPC executive director S.L. Kapil, senior official Vipul Nagar (Geophysics), A.K. Bharati (Civil), PPA deputy director Praveen and IIT expert Sandeep, along with AP water resources officials examined status of the diaphragm wall, which is submerged in Godavari River. They thus assessed the extent of damage based on technical details. Inspection of the damage will continue on Wednesday, June 29. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/in-other-news/280622/experts-inspect-damaged-polavaram-diaphragm-wall.html  (28 June 2022)

Floods affect the diaphragm wall work Ambati Rambabu, AP Water Resources Minister said that they were expecting nearly 14 lakh cusecs of water to reach the Polavaram project in due course of time, 9 lakh cusecs is already there. The minister said that since the lower coffer dam was not constructed to the safe level, flood water from the river entered into the project site through lower coffer dam affecting the progress of ongoing works.

Recently a team of the NHPC officials visited the dam to find out the health of the diaphragm wall and to come up with proposals to carry out repair works to the damaged portions of the diaphragm wall or to take up a new diaphragm wall parallel to the existing one. The minister said that their work might be affected due to the floods. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/110722/polavaram-project-expected-to-get-14l-cusecs-water.html  (11 July 2022)

Due to unexpected heavy flood inflows, the work of the project came to a standstill. (Hans India)

Polavaram this year has created history by getting centuries’ heaviest inflows of flood water. The Irrigation department had expected that Polavaram would receive heavy flood in August but the water level near the coffer dam of the project on July 12 2022 was recorded as 34.20 metres. The lower coffer dam and Gap-2 main dam-related works are still pending. Currently, the entire Gap-2 area has become waterlogged. Additional inflow of 15 lakh cusecs may come into the irrigation project by Wed (Jul 13), according to Chief Engineer B Sudhakarababu. https://www.thehansindia.com/andhra-pradesh/expectations-on-polavaram-distorted-753172   (13 July 2022)

According to the Godavari river flood history, an inflow of 15 lakh cusecs has never been reported downstream of Bhadrachalam in the month of July since the 1920s. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/andhra-pradesh-polavaram-spillway-withstands-flash-floods/article65635776.ece  (13 July 2022)

There are indications that more than 16 lakh cusecs of water could be released at the barrage by July 12 2022 night. At Polavaram, the authorities had to open all the 48 flood gates to release 15 lakh cusecs of water. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/godavari-in-spate-in-andhra-several-villages-inundated-101657651848897.html  (13 July 2022)

The CM discussed with officials the filling of Gap-1 and Gap-2 that had previously formed in the ECRF (Earth Cum Rock Fill) dam of the project. Officials said nine types of tests and reports were required for the Gap-1 and Gap-2 works. Some tests were complete and the rest would be done after the floods subside. They said the lower cofferdam works were also disrupted due to the floods, and the works would resume after the water level comes down to 2 lakh cusecs. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/140722/ap-to-seek-funds-from-centre-on-ad-hoc-basis-for-polavaram-cm-jagan.html  (14 July 2022)

The diaphragm wall of the Polavaram project is under a sheet of floodwater by Friday (July 15, 2022) as a result of the flood in the Godavari river. Excluding the spillway that was designed to withstand up to 50 lakh cusecs of inflow, there is an uncertainty on the structural stability of the other facilities of the irrigation project due to incomplete construction of the main dam, as it is receiving an unprecedented inflow.

– The inflow of 19.30 lakh cusecs at the Polavaram project on July 15 2022 evening, was beyond the expectations. The outflow is 10.30 lakh cusecs. At the upstream spillway, the water level was +35 metres, and in the downstream of the spillway at +27 metres on Friday evening. Since 1920s, the river has never witnessed such an inflow at the project in July.

– Water Resources Minister Ambati Rambabu said, “The present flood level is scary. We are sure that the spillway can withstand up to 50 lakh cusecs of floodwater discharge. However, the diaphragm wall has been submerged. The construction of the lower cofferdam is incomplete. The floodwater is now entering the diaphragm wall areas from the lower cofferdam. As a result, the entire facility of diaphragm wall has been submerged”.

There is an uncertainty on the structural stability of the other facilities of the irrigation project due to incomplete construction of the main dam, as it is receiving an unprecedented inflow. (The Hindu)

– In the earlier flood, the diaphragm wall was partially damaged, leading to an additional project cost of ₹600 crore, he said. Subsequently, several groups of experts had been roped in by the Ministry of Jal Shakti to find a scientific solution for the damage. That exercise has remained incomplete. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/polavaram-project-diaphragm-wall-under-a-sheet-of-floodwater/article65644104.ece  (15 July 2022)

Ambati Rambabu says all measures taken at Polavaram to avoid flood threats Andhra Pradesh Irrigation Minister Ambati Rambabu said that dangerous conditions have arisen at Polavaram dam due to the flood. Ambati Rambabu said after inspecting the flood situation at Polavaram on July 15 2022: (IF) the flood flow reaches 30 lakh cusecs, the situation at Coffer Dam will become alarming and hence taking strong measures. “As the lower coffer dam has already sunk, the work has come to a standstill due to the water entering above the diaphragm wall,” Ambati said. The minister further said that Upper Coffer Dam can withstand 28 lakh cusecs exceeding that will be a troublesome situation. He said have the govt has made arrangements to increase the height as part of the preliminary measures. https://www.thehansindia.com/andhra-pradesh/ambati-rambabu-says-all-measures-take-at-polavaram-to-avoid-threats-753590  (15 July 2022)

The lankas (island villages) located in the bed of the river are part of the Godavari, said irrigation adviser to State government Dr P Ramaraju. He said that there is no alternative to cultivators except vacating the land at the time of floods. “These are fertile lands, but not patta lands. To my knowledge, nobody can claim ownership to these lands,” Ramaraju, who worked as assistant conservator at Dowleswaram barrage during the 1986 flood, said.

Now all eyes are on submerged island villages in Godavari districts. These islands formed due to changes in the course of the river. There are 51 island villages in Konaseema district, six in East Godavari district and 24 in West Godavari district. These islands spread between branches of Gowthami, Vasista and Vynatheya rivers. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/andhra-pradesh/2022/jul/16/island-villages-part-of-river-people-should-vacate-during-floods-andhra-pradesh-government-advisor-2477203.html  (16 July 2022)

Godavari floods prove engineers wrong about Polavaram impact The Polavaram project-affected families are in a sad plight as the rehabilitation colonies too have been inundated. This, as the officials’ estimations have proven wrong. Officials had erected a rehabilitation colony at Kivvaka village in Kukunuru mandal for the inhabitants of four villages –Dacharam, Kivvaka, Damacharla and Vupperu. This colony is now under water. The residents of the colony have been evacuated to safer places.

The people of the merged mandals and the administrations of Polavaram and Devipatnam mandals had repeatedly urged the authorities to settle their R&R packages by bringing their villages under the 41.5 contour instead of the 45.5 contour before taking up the project construction. The officials have not heeded their pleas and proceeded with the construction.

Now all the merged mandals including erstwhile East and West Godavari district have been marooned. Before 2019, the government included the villages like Devipatnam, Pudipalli, Damanapallil, Kothagudem, K Veeravaram, Devanapalli etc in the 45 contour. But, during the 2019 floods, all these villages had been submerged and the government as well as the people of the area faced a lot of hardships. With this experience, these villages have been included in the 41 contour list in 2020.

The AP High Court had, in a judgment in 2007, directed the government that it should not take up any project construction works until the Rehabilitation and Resettlement package was completed. The government did not heed this call and started the work. Now, the people are facing hardships due to the floods and the backwaters in the cofferdam at the Polavaram project. — DC File Image

The AP High Court had, in a judgment in 2007, directed the government that it should not take up any project construction works until the Rehabilitation and Resettlement package was completed. The government did not heed this HC order and started the work. Now, the people are facing hardships due to the floods and the backwaters in  the cofferdam at the Polavaram project. Adivasi MahaSabha legal adviser Inapurapu Suryanarayana has requested the government to include all the villages under the 41 contour and construct the rehabilitation colonies in areas that will not be affected by the floods or any other natural disasters in future. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/170722/polavaram-project-contours-proven-wrong.html  (17 July 2022)

Polavaram, Kaleshwaram projects damaged, Kadam dam overflowed One of the noteworthy features of the floods in ongoing on monsoon so far has been what is happening around large dam projects, particularly in Central India, Eastern India and Southern India. The Polavaram dam on Godavari river, the largest under construction dam in India, again suffered damage this monsoon as confessed by the Andhra Pradesh Irrigation Minister Ambati Rambabu after his frequent visits to the dam. The dam had suffered damage in 2019 floods and it is still not clear what is way forward and the dam has again suffered damage. This will make the unviable project even more unviable, but the government will continue to sink good money after the massive sunk funds.

The Kaleshwaram project in Godavari basin, the largest lift irrigation projects of India has also faced damages with at least two pump houses with large number of massive capacity pumps getting submerged, and third one partially flooded. The full impact of this damage will only be known after assessment once the floods recede.

In the same Godavari basin in the northern Telangana district of Adilabad, Kadam irrigation project received such unprecedented quantities of inflows that the water level went above the Full Reservoir Level, even after opening all the gates, as per reports. This posed such a risk to the structure, and it also led to evacuation of several villages. It is not clear if the dam operation was as per the rule curve or if it has an updated rule curve. Why was the dam full so early in the monsoon? Was advance action taken to release the excess water?

Further south in Krishna basin, Tungabhadra dam was so full that for several days it has been releasing over a lakh cusecs of water also submerging the UNESCO designated heritage site at Hampi in the downstream of the dam, upstream from two bridges that are also reportedly acting as bottle necks. Again the question arise if the Tungabhadra dam followed rule curve, if it took advance action to ensure that water was released so that it does not have to release large quantities of water into flooded downstream areas. No answers are forthcoming.

All these episodes (and there are many more) raise the questions about the structural and operational safety of India’s dams particularly in monsoon and also shows the abysmal performance of CWC and other dam authorities. It also shows how inadequate is the dam safety act recently passed by the parliament. https://sandrp.in/2022/07/18/drp-nb-180722-polavaram-kaleshwaram-projects-damaged-kadam-dam-overflowed/  (18 July 2022)

Govt blames Polavaram for floods Telangana transport minister P. Ajay Kumar said that there was negligence in releasing water from Polavaram which led to floods at Bhadrachalam, inundating parts of the town and several villages along the course of the river in Bhadradri Kothagudem district. The minister demanded that Andhra Pradesh government reduce the height of Polavaram dam to avoid floods at Bhadrachalam due to backwaters.

– Heavy rains in 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. About 25,000 people from flood-hit areas were evacuated to relief camps. https://news.abplive.com/telangana/telangana-blames-under-construction-polavaram-project-in-andhra-pradesh-for-godavari-floods-1543355 (19 July 2022)

2.5-km-long upper coffer dam height raised by 3 ft. Hans India

Following the State government’s decision to increase the height of Polavaram upper coffer dam by 1 meter to 44 m in view of expectation of higher than design flood capacity of 28 lakh cusecs in Godavari, works for increasing the height of 2.5 kms upper coffer dam was started on July 15 and completed by July 17. The upper cofferdam was built to withstand 28 lakh cusecs of flood water. If inflow is more than the capacity, water will flow over the upper cofferdam. https://www.thehansindia.com/andhra-pradesh/25-km-long-upper-coffer-dam-height-raised-by-3-ft-754096  (19 July 2022)

Impact on Bhadrachalam floods A technical study by the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, (IIT-H) has clearly indicated that the impact of the Polavaram dam in Andhra Pradesh on surface water levels in Bhadrachalam town in the event of Godavari floods is as small as two-centimetre increase.

The study, ‘Backwater Effect Due to Polavaram Dam Project under Different Return Periods,” carried out by research scholars C.R. Amarnath and T. Shashidhar, was funded by the Telangana state government.

– According to the study, given the discharge of 36 lakh cusecs, the highest level of flood recorded in the history of the Godavari, the water level in Bhadrachalam in steady state condition after constructing the Polavaram dam would be 57.02 metres against 57 metres without the dam.

Similarly, if the discharge went up to 50 lakh cusecs, which the Polavaram dam was re-designed to withstand, the water level in Bhadrachalam would be 61.79 metres post completion of Polavaram dam against 61.77 metres without the dam.

The study pointed out that the water levels in Bhadrachalam in unsteady conditions would be 59.84 metres if the dam gates kept closed even after the discharge level reached 36 lakh cusecs. The study said the level would be 59.52 metres if there was no dam which in other words the increase in water level the dam might be forcing, that too with all gates closed, will be 20 cm.

– The IIT-H study gave utmost importance to the maintenance of dam gates, the failure of which it warned, would endanger Bhadrachalam and surrounding areas.

“Regular and periodic maintenance of the gates of the Polavaram dam is a must for the safety of upstream areas. Dam gates should be well operated, keeping in mind the inflows and submergence that would be caused by improper closing/opening of the gate walls,” the study pointed out. It also stressed the need for construction of levees and dredging of riverbeds to reduce the water surface elevation.

An officer added that the backwater effect on Bhadrachalam was due to congestion of the river cross section at Papikondalu. https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/current-affairs/220722/polavaram-had-scant-impact-on-bhadrachalam-floods-study.html (23 Jul 2022)

This article suggests that CWC needs to take up studies to resolve the concerns of Riparian states. It does not though mention about there being no Public Hearings or Impact Assessment in Odisha or Chhattisgarh parts of impacted areas. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/politics-over-polavaram/article65678990.ece  (25 July 2022)

“When Polavaram water is stored at FRL, it is certain that the flood level at Bhadrachalam will be further compounded. IIT Roorke has also estimated the probable maximum flood (PMF) as 58 lakh cusecs and the backwater levels at upstream of Konta on Sabari river as 218 feet with 58 lakh cusecs against 180 feet with 36 lakh cusescs as computed by the Central Water Commission. Even AP studies only 36 lakh cusecs flood does not contain the floods and inundate Bhadrachalam, Manuguru heavy water plant and even coal mines in the region,” Telangana engineer-in-chief (irrigation) C Muralidhar said.

He said increase in backwaters levels on main Godavari river would result in extensive submersion of temple town of Bhadrachalam, habitations, forest tracts, etc., and cause irreparable damage. The heavy water plant at Manuguru, located one km adjacent to Dummugudem anicut on Godavari river, is also bound to face the impact of flooding.

Muralidhar said due to recent floods, 99 villages in Ashwapuram, Bhadrachalam, Burgampahad, Charla, Dummugudem and Pinapaka mandals got submerged and as many as 12,594 villages out of a total 27,364 were impacted. “PPA being the nodal agency for Polavaram project should initiate measures for safeguarding the territory of Telangana and its habitations,” the irrigation chief said.

Meanwhile, the Telangana government, in another letter, has urged the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) to furnish data for formulation of rule curves for Srisailam and Nagarjuna Sagar reservoirs. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/get-study-on-polavaram-backwaters-t-tells-ppa/articleshow/93244834.cms  (31 July 2022)

CWC team inspects upper coffer dam A three-member team CWC visited the Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday (July 30) first time after the Godavari floods. The recent flood in the project has flooded villages and caused damage to crops and property.

On the other hand, Telangana ENC wrote a letter to the Polavaram project authority seeking a study on backwater. It suggested that a study be done by an independent organisation on the impact of backwater. He clarified that there will be a threat of back water to Bhadrachalam if the project is completed. The Telangana ENC has asked the Polavaram Project Authority to prevent flooding caused by backwater and take necessary steps to mitigate the damage. https://www.thehansindia.com/andhra-pradesh/andhra-pradesh-cwc-team-visits-polavaram-project-inspects-upper-coffer-dam-755855  (31 July 2022)

Floods shed lights on displaced tribals Recently, a statistical analysis tried to estimate probable flood discharge values for 1,000 and 10,000 years. The two-dimensional flow simulations revealed that at improper gate operations, even with a flow of 0.1 million cubic metres per second (m3/s), water levels at Bhadrachalam town will be high enough to submerge built-up areas and nearby villages. The study further cited that the peak flood flow in the Godavari in the last 100 years was 0.09 million m3/s and the Polavaram dam was designed for 0.10 million m3/s. The CWC had determined the possible maximum flood as 0.14 million m3/s and the dam’s spillway was redesigned accordingly. If the same phenomenon of the Krishna River occurs in the Godavari River, the flood flow would be 0.23 million m3/s, resulting in a major catastrophe, according to the report. https://www.downtoearth.org.in/blog/natural-disasters/international-day-of-indigenous-people-floods-in-godavari-shed-lights-on-tribals-displaced-by-polavaram-84212 (9 Aug 2022)

ECR dam not to be taken up until diaphragm wall damage is assessed: Minister The Water Resources Minister Ambati Rambabu has asserted that construction of the Earth cum Rock fill (ECR) dam of Polavaram project cannot be taken up until damage to the diaphragm wall was assessed. Addressing a press conference on Sept 7, 2022, Mr. Rambabu said that the State government was of the view that the diaphragm was damaged. Mr. Rambabu said there are no institutes or organisations in the world that can certify to what extent the diaphragm wall was damaged. However, efforts are being made to assess the damage. The National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) has taken up the study in this regard. The Corporation did not specify any time to submit its report, he said.

File picture of the Polavaram irrigation project. Photo Credit: Special arrangement/ The Hindu

– “It was a result of grave mistake committed by then CM N. Chandrababu Naidu. How can the diaphragm wall be constructed without constructing the cofferdam?” he said.

– The Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) and CWC owes an explanation as to why the then State government was allowed to go ahead with its lopsided plans to construct the diaphragm wall even before the cofferdam was constructed, he said, adding, “at an appropriate time, we will ask the Central government as well.”   https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/polavaram-projects-ecr-dam-not-to-be-taken-up-until-diaphragm-wall-damage-is-assessed-minister/article65860851.ece  (07 Sept. 2022)

DRP NB 260922: Need for new credible Polavaram backwater study Telangana state has demanded fresh backwater study for the Polavaram dam based on a number of grounds including the higher spillway capacity and outdated river cross sections of 1990s used in the old study. The changing rainfall pattern and resultant changing river flow pattern, both due to changed rainfall and changed state of catchment area also should be a reason for such a fresh study. However, more importantly, the study needs to be done in a credible way involving independent experts, not just state or central govt officials or academics from govt run institutions. Moreover, the study and all the information related to it has to be completely and promptly in public domain as these studies are required for the affected people and affected area. Normally Central Water Commission does such studies and refuses to make it public. What is the use or reason for backwater study to be secret? Possibly CWC is not confident of the quality of the study and that is why it is very important to have experts in the study team who are known to take independent stand. It is useful not only for the states of Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, but also for the people of Andhra Pradesh too. And earlier this is done, better it will be for all concerned. https://sandrp.in/2022/09/26/drp-nb-260922-need-for-new-credible-polavaram-backwater-study/

Telangana seeks fresh study on backwater effects The Telangana govt has appealed to the Centre to commission an independent study to observe the effects on the backwaters of Godavari river due to the construction of Polavaram major irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh, persons in the know of the development said on Sept 23 2022.

– In a letter to Union irrigation secretary Pankaj Kumar on Wednesday (Sept. 21), Telangana special chief secretary (irrigation) Rajat Kumar said a committee of a technical team comprising of chief engineers from all riparian states — Telangana, AP, Chhattisgarh and Odisha — besides experts from Central Water Commission and National Institute of Hydrology (NIH) may be constituted to study the backwater effects of Polavaram project on the riparian states. “There is every need for transparency in sharing the data and formulating a sound technical solution acceptable to all,” Kumar said, in the wake of the Centre calling for a meeting of all officials of the riparian states in Delhi on September 29 to study the issue. In his letter, Kumar expressed apprehension that Telangana would witness massive submergence all along for about 30 km stretch upstream from the Telangana-AP border on either side of the Godavari river due to the Polavaram backwaters once the project was completed.

– The Telangana official pointed out that technical studies for backwater effect were carried out by the CWC only for a probable maximum flood of 36 lakh cusecs flood as against designed 50 lakh cusecs. “This would pose threat to the historical temple town of Bhadrachalam with adjoining villages, the critical Manuguru Heavy Water Plant & Bhadradri Thermal plant all upstream of Polavaram,” he said. Kumar said the studies on backwater effect were based on the river cross sections surveyed prior to 1990, but the river course had undergone several changes in the last 30 years due to climate change, land use, sedimentation etc. “So, a fresh survey has to be conducted on the cross sections of the river upstream of Polavaram,” he said. Kumar said the backwater effect of Polavaram would also result in local drainage congestion along the river banks & local streams like Peddavagu, Edullavagu, Pamuleruvagu, Turubakavagu etc joining the river Godavari causing loss & destruction in the areas in Telangana. This would result in submergence of around 60 villages & a huge extent of agricultural lands, he said. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/telangana-seeks-fresh-study-on-backwater-effects-of-polavaram-project-101663958123025.html (24 Sep 2022)

Expert panel for acquisition of 892 ac land by Polavaram Authority A high-level meeting of the Irrigation department attended by senior engineers and expert committee formed to come up with suitable measures for combating the frequent flood affecting Bhadradri-Kothagudem district has proposed to the Polavaram Project Authority to take up acquisition of 892 acres land submerged in six villages of four mandals during the July flood. Special Chief Secretary asks committee to submit detailed report by November 6.

Chairman of the expert committee and Engineer-in-Chief (O&M) B. Nagender Rao explained at the meeting chaired by Special Chief Secretary (Irrigation) Rajat Kumar that Bhadradri-Kothagudem district would get affected with Polavaram project in 3 ways — with backwater, standing water inundation and drainage congestion of local streams.

In addition, 3 outfall regulators at Vista Complex, Kotha Colony and Etapaka would also be blocked. Stagnation of drain and rain water would occur round-the-clock at the three sluices and need continuous pumping with high discharge pumps. The expert committee also brought to the meeting’s notice that the existing flood banks in and around Bhadrachalam stretch for 7.37 km having 8 outfall sluices at different locations and still levels.

It was also explained that during the July flood, the estimated maximum flood discharge (MFD) at Polavaram, as per Central Water Commission, was 21.59 lakh cusecs against 24.22 lakh cusecs estimated at Bhadrachalam. It clearly indicates afflux or backwater effect due to non-free flow condition at Polavaram and 103 villages were submerged covering an area of 40,446 acres and displacing 28,000 people during the July flood due to afflux.

The expert committee opined that it happened primarily due to local drainage congestion of 36 streams joining river Godavari caused by Polavaram backwater for a flood of 21.59 lakh cusecs apart from river morphology changes. It has also pointed out that another 46 villages would come under submergence if the MFD is in the measure of 36 lakh cusecs.

The only possible solution for drainage of the low-lying areas of Bhadrachalam and adjoining Burgampahad and Sarapaka would be continuous pumping with a separate O&M plan, the committee suggested. The Special Chief Secretary called for a detailed report by Nov 6 from the committee on flood hazards faced by people in Bhadradri-Kothadudem district & recommendations for permanent remedial measures to be placed before the Cabinet for approval. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/expert-panel-for-acquisition-of-892-acres-land-in-telangana-by-polavaram-authority/article66066514.ece (28 Oct 2022)

Backwater effect survey to be taken up from Nov 8 Authority will start on Nov 8, 2022, back water impact study of the Polavarm project in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The survey earlier done for NGT will also be taken into account.

– A survey conducted by an expert committee set up by the Irrigation Department of Telangana recently has found that storage of water at full reservoir level (FRL) of 150 feet/45.72 metres in the project would result in submergence of an additional 892 acres in six villages of four mandals for eight months a year and suggested that the PPA take up the land acquisition process with project cost. Further, the expert panel survey has also stated that 103 villages were submerged during the flood in July this year, particularly due to congestion in local drainage system of 36 major and medium streams due to afflux in the 3-km stretch at Bhadrachalam and changes in the river morphology even with flood of 21.59 lakh cusecs. It has also pointed out that local drainage congestion along the banks obstructing the discharge from local streams such as Peddavagu, Edullavagu, Pamuleruvagu and Turubakavagu and 32 others would cause frequent flash floods in seven mandals – Aswapuram, Bhadrachalam, Burgampahad, Cherla, Dummugudem, Pinapaka and Manuguru – even during the non-monsoon period.

A file picture of Seetaram village in AP that was submerged in the Polavaram project backwaters. | Photo Credit: T. Appala Naidu/The Hindu

– A survey that got conducted by the NGT earlier has found that the Polavaram backwater effect would be up to 18 km upstream in Kinnerasani river and up to 6 km upstream in Murreduvagu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/ap-ts-engineers-to-take-up-polavaram-backwater-effect-survey-from-nov-8/article66095591.ece  (04 Nov. 2022)

892 acres to be submerged in backwater Telangana has informed the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) that the floods in Godavari in July inundated 103 villages, submerging 40,446 acres in the State. 892 acres of agricultural land will be submerged in the backwater of Polavaram project in five villages on either side of Godavari from Bhadrachalam to Dummugudem within the State at FRL of 150 Ft of Polavaram project.

– The Engineer-in-Chief of Telangana C. Muralidhar informed the authority that the water depth at Bhadrachalam would be more than 28 ft throughout the year at the minimum drawdown level and 43 ft at FRL. Due to backwater, there was also a problem of local drainage congestion along the river banks. About 35 major and medium streams add to the congestion on either side of the river. The only solution for drainage of water in low-lying areas of Bhadrachalam town and adjoining Burgampahad and Sarapaka would be continuous pumping.

– Mr. Muralidhar stressed the need for demarcation and mapping of areas affected by Kinnerasani river and 35 streams. The government of Andhra Pradesh failed to demarcate the areas affected by stagnation along Kinnerasani and Murreduvagu stream. Beside demarcation, the AP government should be asked to inform the PPA of the operation schedule of the gates on the spillway of the project.  https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/892-acres-to-be-submerged-in-backwater-of-polavaram/article66145497.ece  (16 Nov. 2022)

AP, Telangana to begin joint survey on the backwater effects 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, Oct 29, 2022. The survey will ascertain the extent of submergence areas in Telangana if the water in Polavaram is maintained at full (45.72 m) and minimum reservoir levels (41.15 m) from July to September. “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. 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. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/ap-telangana-to-begin-joint-survey-on-the-backwater-effects-of-polavaram-101666984238585.html  (29 Oct. 2022)

SANDRP (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)

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