Floods in Godavari highlight the plight of those displaced by the Polavaram project | Latest India News

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The recent heavy flooding of the Godavari River has again highlighted the plight of thousands of families to be displaced due to the large Polavaram irrigation scheme being constructed on the river in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh .



Due to delayed progress in the rehabilitation and resettlement of evacuees from the project, several villages along the course of the river in the backwaters of the Polavaram project suffered massive flooding during the floods of the second week of July.

The worst victims were the residents of the seven submergence mandals (revenue blocks) – Chintoor, Yetakapa, Kunavaram, VR Puram, Bhadrachalam (rural), (now part of Alluri Sitarama Raju district), Kukkunuru and Velerpadu (part of Eluru District) – which were spun off from Telangana and merged into Andhra Pradesh after the bifurcation of the Combined State through an amendment to the PA Reorganization Act in June 2014.

According to initial estimates in 2004, the project envisions the displacement of as many as 44,570 families from 271 income villages of eight income blocks, but the number has increased to 98,818 families, 80% of which are tribes in 2014-15 . By 2021, the number of families to be evacuated had risen to 1.06 lakh.



These families are supposed to be rehabilitated in alternative locations like Buttaigudem, Jeelugumilli, Darbhagudem, Pedaryagudem etc. apart from safer locations within the same mandals closer to their original dwellings. Each family will receive monetary compensation of 6.8,000,000 to 10 lakh depending on location apart from land to land and housing facilities.

“Apart from a few cases, there has been no rehabilitation of submerged villages. A few hundred tribal families whose farmlands were submerged due to the Polavaram project have received monetary compensation, but there has been no progress in building new settlements to rehabilitate the affected families,” said J Venkatesh, a resident of Chintoor.

According to revised estimates in 2017-2018, the total cost of Polavaram climbed to 55,548 crores. But it was reduced to 47,725 crore by Revised Cost Committee appointed by Union Ministry Jal Shakti. From this, 28,191 crores is earmarked solely for rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of those evacuated from the project.



Interestingly, the Polavaram Irrigation Project was declared a national project by the Center itself in 2014 and hence it has to bear 100% of the project cost. Instead of releasing money from time to time, the Center asks the State to spend first and get reimbursed later. But the state government claims a shortage of funds to undertake the R&R work.

During a visit to some of the submerged villages of Polavaram like Koyuguru and Chatti of Chintoor block on July 27, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy said it was the Centre’s responsibility to provide the R&R package to evacuees from the Polavaram project. Reddy said he would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to pursue the matter.

“I have written to Delhi several times and discussed the issue at each meeting with senior officials. Although the state government is spending funds for the project, the Center is not releasing the funds on time. We haven’t overcome yet 2,900 crore from the Center,” he said.



Since the implementation of R&R is a huge task, the Jagan government has proposed to retain water in the Polavaram reservoir in phases. In the first phase, we will fill the water in the reservoir only up to the contour level of 41.15 meters, in accordance with the guidelines of the Central Water Commission on Dam Safety, he said.

“The dam will be fully filled to Full Reservoir Level (FRL) of 45.72 meters only after three years and by then all evacuees will be compensated and rehabilitated. Until all families receive an R&R package, we will not fill the water up to the FRL, but let the water flow through the dam,” he said.

Floods reveal emptiness in R&R

Although the Jagan government says submergence of villages in the Polavaram backwaters will be minimal at the 41.15 meter contour of the dam, recent flooding has shown that even at this level the submergence is too high.



Thunga Ramesh, a resident of Kukunoor, said: “Some of the R&R settlements built four years ago in places like Kivvaka, Pedarayagudem and Damarcherla, where hundreds of Polavaram evacuees were moved, were also submerged during the floods. floods.

“Initially, the water level at Polavaram was maintained at only 35-36 feet, not at the first contour level of 41.15 meters, and the remaining water was drained downstream. higher elevation were submerged,” said PhD student Ramesh.

A similar complaint was filed by P Nani, who runs a medical shop in VR Puram, another submersion mandal. Many villages in these mandals are only submerged if the water level at the Polavaram Dam is 45.72 meters. “But in the recent floods, some villages were completely flooded and many others received water up to roof level,” Nani said.



“Everyone knows that we have to leave our villages sooner or later. The sooner we get paid and shifted, the better. We cannot bear this loss any longer,” Nani said.

T’gana calls for a new submersion investigation

Meanwhile, Telangana, which has also suffered heavy submergence due to flooding, requested the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti to conduct an in-depth study on the effect of Polavaram backwaters.

In a letter to the Polavaram Project Authority on Saturday, Chief State Engineer (Irrigation) C Muralidhar requested the Center to commission a study on the extent of the affected area in Telangana due to the backwaters in upstream of the Polavaram project.

“Backwater studies carried out by the Central Water Commission fell far short of the likely maximum flood flow of just 36 lakh cusecs, which was later increased to 50 lakh cusecs. It does not contain critical information such as backwater levels and cross-sectional profiles in Bhadrachalam town and at Manuguru heavy water plant located in Telangana,” he said.



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