When the polavaram irrigation project is completed in the near future, it would mean the fulfillment of a half-a-century-old dream of the people of Andhra Pradesh for continuous water supply. The project, an engineering marvel envisaged to supply sufficient water to all 13 districts of the state, is progressing at record pace, with the state government fast-tracking work despite financial issues, aiming to complete the work by mid next year.
The statistics that the project—on the Godavari river in the West Godavari and East Godavari districts—throws up are most impressive. With 48 gates in all, each 20 metre high and 16 metre wide, the project spans a total of 1,119 metre. To put the huge infrastructure in place, 36.7 lakh cubic metres of concrete, 50,000 tonnes of steel and 9,30,000 tonnes of cement are being utilised. The project would irrigate, in two phases, a total of 42 lakh acres, besides meeting the water needs of a state with more than 5 crore people.
It has been designed to withstand massive floods that have a probability of occurring once in a 1,000 years. The Polavaram Spillway would have one of the highest discharge capacities in the world —at 50 lakh cusecs, it would surpass the
3 Gorges Dam in China, one of the largest dams in the world with a discharge capacity of 47 lakh cusecs. The total storage capacity of the water reservoir is estimated at 119 TMC. Another critical component of the project is a hydro-electric power house, involving installation of 12 vertical Kaplan Turbines, each of 80 MW capacity, which would cumulatively generate 960 MW of electricity.
The Andhra Pradesh government had assigned the project to the Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd (NECL) last year, after Transtroy Ltd, the original contractor, faced challenges over its completion—NECL recently entered the record books with its feat of non-stop funnelling of concrete into the dam structure over 24 hours.
Says Sridar Chinta, MD, NECL, “our company was awarded the contract worth Rs 3,400 crore at 2015 prices (now valued at Rs 5,000 crore) and we expect to complete the works by June, 2019” . The contract includes construction of cofferdam, canals and spillway gates. It is estimated that the project would be complete by April, 2020.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is pushing hard for project completion by 2020 even as his government has raised questions over the Centre’s stance on the issue. “Despite the hurdles it has faced, the state government has spent Rs 15,585 crore on the project, while the Union government is yet to release the Rs 3,722 crore the state was assured of under the AP bifurcation Act,” Naidu has said. As per Section 90 of the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, responsibility for 100% funding of the project, including on land acquisition and relief & rehabilitation (R&R), lies with the Centre.
The Centre is also yet to finalise the revised detailed project report (DPR) entailing an outlay of Rs 58,000 crore. “We will fight for the reimbursement that is our due, not stopping work for want of funds given that the project promises to be a lifeline for the state,” the CM has stressed. At the same time, “further delay in reimbursement of the expenditure by the Centre would adversely affect the pace of the project, including land acquisition and R&R works,’’ he has said.
Significantly, the project has been deemed a national project by the Centre. Of the `10,459.30 crore expenditure incurred on it since the announcement, `6,727.26 crore has been reimbursed by the Centre so far, with the last reimbursement being made in June, 2018.
“The state government has been providing money for the project with great difficulty. This is affecting the implementation of other flagship programmes of the state,” the CM has said.