It is learnt that the Andhra Pradesh government has objected to the release of water from Srisailam reservoir to Nagarjunasagar for the drinking water needs of Hyderabad. This has placed Telangana in a sticky situation.
Jurala has a live storage capacity of only 6 tmc. Due to this meagre capacity, water from it can be utilised only when there is a flood. This water year, ie, out of 99 days so far Jurala has received flood waters of more than one tmc for 7 days only. And for 50 days, there were meagre inflows (ie, less than 0.1 tmc) or no flows at all. The highest flood was a mere 3.9 tmc on September 4. On that day, 3.3 tmc were let into downstream.
This shows that the water invariably has to be let down from Jurala whenever there is a small flood. The reason is very low storage capacity at Jurala. From Jurala, water flows down to Srisailam. The capacity of Srisailam reservoir is 215 tmc. Water released from Srisailam reaches Nagarujanasagar, which has a storage capacity of 312 tmc. Nagarjunasagar is the source for Hyderabad’s drinking water supply.
The erstwhile Hyderabad State had proposed Bhima project (100.7 tmc), Upper Krishna project (54.4 tmc) and Tungabhadra Left Bank Canal (19.2 tmc) to irrigate areas in Mahbubnagar district with a total utilisation of 174 tmc. After the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956, Mahabubnagar district canned these projects.
The Jurala project was originally proposed with full reservoir level +1,050 feet, gross storage capacity of 33 tmc and live capacity of 16 tmc to serve the areas covered under Bhima and Upper Krishna projects, without any submergence in the Mysore State (Karnataka). The total ayacut proposed under the project was 2.85 lakh acres with 51.80 tmc utilisation.
However, the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh governments did not act properly, which resulted in the execution of the Jurala project with different parameters, causing further disadvantage to Mahabubnagar district.
The project now has an FRL of +1,045 feet, gross storage capacity of 9.62 tmc and live storage capacity of 6 tmc. The present allocations of dependable waters (17.84 tmc for 1.05 lakh acres) was awarded by the Bachawat Tribunal (1976) out of sympathy, and stipulated for utilisation at Jurala or in the Telangana region only.
Almatti Dam Height
Before the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal (2000s), Andhra Pradesh had rejected Scheme-B and while the issue of Almatti dam height was going on at the Tribunal, K Chandrashekhar Rao, TRS president, had urged the State government to negotiate with Karnataka so as to get water to the parched and deprived lands of Mahabubnagar by ‘give and take’ policy.
But the then government did not pay heed and dubbed him as working against the interests of the State of Andhra Pradesh. Telangana intellectuals like Prof Jayashankar and engineers R Vidyasagar Rao, D Bheemaiah, N Gopal Reddy and others advocated for the revival of Upper Krishna project (Almatti project)’s Left Canal Extension to Mahabubnagar district and 50% share in the carryover storage of the Almatti reservoir, in return for agreeing to the raise height of Almatti dam.
There were reports that Karnataka was ready to give 50 tmc of water in lieu of not opposing the raising of the dam height. The Andhra Pradesh argument line was to protect the interests of Krishna delta only rather than to assure farmers water for at least one crop under the Jurala project to serve Telangana districts within Krishna basin.
That was a great opportunity, which was lost due to the attitude of the then Andhra governments. As a result, today, as per the Supreme Court and Tribunals’ orders, the height of Almatti dam has already been raised to 519.6 m and raising it further to 524.256 m is imminent without any benefits either to Telangana or Andhra Pradesh.
At 519.6 m, Karnataka could store 130 tmc in the Almatti reservoir and in future it would store 227 tmc at 524.256 m. This water year, at +519.6m height and scarce rainfall in the basin below Almatti dam, the precarious situation of Telangana, as well as Andhra Pradesh, is clearly visible. Imagine if the height of Almatti is raised to +524.256m, what would be the inflows at Jurala!
Telangana’s Rightful Share
Jurala cannot store more than 6 tmc of water at present. Hence, meagre utilisations for irrigation are possible at Jurala only when there are inflows coming from upstream. When there are inflows from upstream, they are being released to downstream, ie, Srisailam.
The Nagarjunasagar project from where we lift water for Hyderabad’s drinking water needs is at dead storage level and dredging is being taken up to draw water from further low levels. Now Andhra Pradesh has refused to release water from Srisailam to Nagarunasagar for drinking water needs of Hyderabad.
Mahabubnagar, Ranga Reddy, Nalgonda and Hyderabad districts are within Krishna basin and are entitled to utilise water rightfully. There were many government orders — given by the erstwhile AP government — which made the projects in Krishna basin serve areas outside the basin in Andhra while neglecting Telangana. Telangana should construct sufficient storages in Mahabubnagar (old) and other districts to utilise our rightful share.
As Section 89 of the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, has very limited scope, which will not solve the woes of Telangana, the Union government should refer the Telangana government’s Section-3 complaint to a Tribunal at the earliest. Till then, proper steps should be taken to provide drinking water to Hyderabad and other Krishna basin areas in Telangana immediately.
(The author is Secretary, Telangana Engineers JAC)