Kaleshwaram water to over 25L acres in one year, says Harish Rao

In an exclusive interview to Telangana Today, Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao exuded confidence that nearly 70 per cent of the benefits of the Rs 80,500 crore Kaleshwaram project would be realised in a year. The completion of the various components of the project was so systematically scheduled that water can be drawn from the Godavari well before December next to meet the irrigation needs of the designed ayacut during rabi.

By Author  |  Published: 18th Aug 2018  12:08 amUpdated: 17th Aug 2018  10:48 pm

Come December, the State will reach another key milestone when it transforms its parched lands into a lush green landscape. One project, three barrages, several packages, numerous canal systems and humongous surge pools to lift water from the mighty Godavari are set to make Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s dream come true. And that’s no mean task given the fact that the intricate structures were completed in less 30 months. The water from the project is expected to fill Mid-Manair Dam in December, a crucial link, which will signal completion of a major part of the project. The hopes of lakhs of farmers spread across 37 lakh acre covering several districts rest on this project. And at the helm of the project execution is the Chief Minister’s trusted lieutenant Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao.

There is a massive deployment of workforce at more than a dozen work places. Engineers and workmen on the field are getting seriously motivated as the deadline gets closer. Undeterred by floods and heavy rains, they have been working round the clock giving out their best.

The dream of serving the ayacut of the redesigned project at least partially during next rabi will be coming true in the next four months. The success is mainly due to the motivation mounted by Harish Rao, who has been devoting much of his time to the project that is high on the agenda of the State.

As one of the senior engineers associated with the project right from its investigation stage till today puts it, the Irrigation Minister had been working with a greater sense of urgency to quench the thirst of people in the State.

By now, he knew by name every officer on site right from the rank of a junior engineer and his capabilities in delivering the kind of quality of work expected from him. Some of the packages of the project were visited by him as many as 22 times in the past few months.

He has covered almost half of the 203-km tunnel network, frequenting the project as part of the stock-taking mission. The bosses of the implementation agencies also find themselves obliged to make a matching effort in completing the works racing against time.

So is the case with the chief engineers, superintending engineers and executive engineers camping on the site. The onerous task shouldered by him is certain to pay off.

The State has for quite some time been looking forward to the Centre for national project status for Kaleshwaram. Is it going to happen?

The State has stepped up the pace of works on every component of the project to avoid cost escalation. Timely release of funds would make all the difference. The State government has been implementing it availing loans from the consortium of banks so as to avoid delays. Delay in the in the implementation of any of the component will have a cascading effect.

It is high time, the Centre too supported the project, that is emerging as the lifeline of the State. The Centre had accorded national project status to Polavaram in Andhra Pradesh. The Kaleshwaram project too merits equal consideration. But the NDA government did not consider any new project in the country for according the state of national project during the past four years.

Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, on his last two visits to New Delhi, had taken up the issue with the Centre. We will now be mounting pressure for release of Central funds to step up further the pace of works. Speedy implementation of the project will have a dual benefit. The project was intended to serve not just the farm sector. It would be benefitting the industry, besides meeting the drinking water needs of the State capital and scores of towns and villages en route.

Kaleshwaram project, despite all odds, could get all the clearances from the Centre in a record time. What is the secret behind the success?

Two key factors made it possible — constant persuasion and regular follow up. Our Chief Secretary, who had a stint in the Ministry of Environment and Forests is familiar with the processes involved in clearance of projects.

Every time we visited Delhi to pursue the clearances, we used to camp in the national capital for some days to get addressed every issue raised by the officials concerned.

More than anything else, the Union Minister for Water Resources Nitin Gadkari was a practical man. He understands the issues. If he feels it is genuine he is instant in giving solutions. That is how we could avoid delays.

What is the progress of other projects taken up by the government?

We want to go at full speed with respect to the implementation of other key projects, including Palamuru Ranga Reddy Lift Irrigation Scheme and the Sitarama project. We are pursuing the environmental clearances for the Palamuru Ranga Reddy project. The public hearing on the Palamuru project clearance is due in August. The implementation of the two key projects will also be put on the fast track once the Central clearances were obtained.

Coordination with more than a dozen departments is key for the success of the project implementation as well as the clearances process. So far as the acquisition of lands for the project is concerned, Collectors of all the beneficiary districts are involved. Sanction and release of funds is the job of the Finance Department. Progress needs to be simultaneous in all the departments.

With disruptions caused by rains and floods many times this year, are you confident of meeting deadlines?

The works pertaining to different packages of Kaleshwaram projects are being implemented as scheduled. Nearly 70 per cent of the benefits of the project can be realised by June next. Over 25 lakh acres of the designed ayacut of 37 lakh acres would get water in next one year. The stage has been set for commissioning of the key pumphouses at the Medigadda, Annaram and Sundilla barrages. The twin tunnels connecting Nandimadaram reservoir with Yellampali project in Package 6 were also ready. Once the water drawn from the Godavari reached Mid Manair project, there is already a system in operation to take water to seven to eight districts, including Warangal, Bhupalapalli, Mahabubabad, Khammam and Suryapet, which will be the first beneficiaries of the project. Hyderabad city would also get water from the project to meet its drinking water needs.