The Central Water Commission (CWC) may be busy finding out whether Kaleshwaram is a new project or the modified version of an old one. This debate over ‘new or ongoing’ categorisation emanates from the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act 2014, which states that any new project in the Godavari basin must be approved by the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) and the Apex Council (AC).
Since there is no common project between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and the water allocations were being decided by the Godavari Tribunal Award, there was simply no need for the GRMB itself. The existing mechanism, which looks into the water utilisation between other States of Godavari basin, was sufficient for the successor States of Telangana and AP. Yet, GRMB and AC were incorporated in the Act to look into the matters of these two States.
New or Ongoing
The GRMB and AC consist of members of Telangana and AP. So, if a new project is to be taken up by Telangana, it must have the consent of AP. However, if it is an ongoing project, there is no such necessity. Thus, deciding if a project is ‘new or ongoing’ becomes crucial.
In the AP Reorganisation Bill 2013, while the Pranahita-Chevella was stated as an ongoing project, in the case of Kaleshwaram, it stressed on the necessity of re-engineering. Dr BR Ambedkar Pranahita-Chevella Sujala Sravanthi Project was submitted to the CWC in 2010.
Although certain clearances from various directorates had been received, the CWC raised issues of water availability, capacities of online reservoirs and inadequacy of pumping capacities. Accordingly, the ‘Government of Telangana has re-engineered the project. After re-engineering, the original project has been divided into two components viz, Kaleshwaram project and Dr BR Ambedkar Pranahita project (Adilabad). It is reiterated that Kaleshwaram and Pranahita projects are offshoots of Dr BR Ambedkar Pranahita-Chevella Sujala Shravanthi project, necessitated because of comments of CWC and inter-State issues with Maharashtra.’
At the CWC meeting on March 20, Kaleshwaram project authorities explained that the water availability in Pranahita river (a tributary of Godavari) at Tummidihatti is much less than required. Hence, the main source of water has been shifted from Tummidihatti to Medigadda on the main Godavari river, where the required quantity is available. From Medigadda barrage, water is lifted to Yellampalli barrage, which is an online reservoir of Pranahita-Chevella. From Yellampalli onwards, the proposed alignment of Kaleshwaram project is same as that of Pranahita-Chevella.
As pointed out by the CWC and the Expert Committee in 2008 and 2013, and keeping the present and future water requirements in view, the storage capacity of the system has been enhanced. The CWC should consider the above submissions of Telangana before taking any further decision.
It must be noted that during the 60 years of united Andhra Pradesh, no dam was constructed on the Godavari in the entire stretch of 550 km — Sriramsagar project to the AP-Telangana border near Polavaram project.
The Pranahita-Chevella Lift Irrigation Scheme was taken up in 2008, with the main source of water for the project at Tummidihatti on Pranahita river. There was no serious effort by the AP government for an agreement with Maharashtra on Tummidihatti barrage levels, as it involved submergence of lands in Maharashtra. As a result, there was no work there. Only after Telangana was created, an agreement was reached.
On the other side, the Polavaram project was pursued vigorously by the combined AP government, while neglecting the interests of Telangana. At Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal (GWDT) in 1970s, all-out efforts were made to get consent for Polavaram project control levels from other riparian States. Control levels fixation of a similar project at Ichampalli was not stressed.
To get the consent of Karnataka and Maharashtra at the Krishna Tribunal (KWDT-I) for its diversions outside the Krishna basin and its over-appropriation, which resulted in shortage of water in the Krishna basin, AP agreed to give share to those two States in the diverted water from Godavari to Krishna from Polavaram project. While these States got what they wanted, Telangana being a region within AP could not make its voice heard.
So, it is necessary for Telangana to go in for new projects or redesign the ongoing projects to set right the defects and address the unresolved issues.
The AP Reorganisation Act did not make an effort to address water issues of Telangana. In fact, it is skewed in favour of AP. While Polavaram moved ahead without any legal problem and got a National Project status, Telangana’s Ichampalli project or Pranahita-Chevella were denied the same status.
The debate whether Kaleshwaram is a new project must not further delay its completion. Instead, the Centre and CWC must appreciate Telangana for resolving long-pending inter-State issues related to Pranahita-Chevella and Lower Penganga projects pursuing the ‘give and take’ and ‘live and let live’ approach with Maharashtra. In the last four decades, this is the biggest cooperative approach among two States with regard to river water sharing.
Telangana is setting an example for others in respect of utilising its share of water to the maximum extent, and the Centre must enable the quick forward movement of Kaleshwaram.
(The author is secretary, Telangana Engineers JAC)