Polavaram Dam is controversial and is opposed by varied sections in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere in the country. The claims of Andhra Pradesh government are questioned and the manner in which it has carried out the works has raised serious doubts about the importance it gives to any national norms and transparency in a project that would have irreversible implications to ecology and people.
It threatens to displace a Koya tribe that’s no less than cultural genocide.
The project with huge costs and implications to people of three states and ecology needs central agencies to oversee and ensure the trust reposed by all state governments and the citizens of this country. The project requires a thorough reexamination and national debate in the best democratic manner owing its size, adverse implications to the most vulnerable sections of our society- the adivasis- costs and inter state nature of the project.
The project is unpopular as the dam is associated with violation of existing norms. The AP government has initiated works on 22 July 2004 by giving administrative approvals for all components of the project. In March 2005 the contractors have commenced the works for canals. Public Hearing was conducting in five districts of AP on 10 September 2006 without any notification in Chattisgarh and Orissa.
Questionable claims and disputed interests
The dam is alleged to be based on all shaky claims and without any scientific basis. GO Ms No 96 Dt 10.09.2004 and G) Ms No 158 Dt 29.08.2005 claim to irrigate 23.21 lakh acre including existing irrigated ayacut by changing the design of Canals while the Detailed Project Report submitted to Central Water Commission stated that the project is designed to irrigate 7.21 lakh acres.
Different figures to different agencies from time to time have raised deep suspicions of the intentions and the actual magnitude of the displacement costs and the adverse implications. Besides, seriousness of the authorities towards the courts and the central government agencies entrusted with the powers and responsibilities of ensuring that the inter-sate agreements are honored by AP government.
Out of 7,20,000 acres ayacut already 5,47,000 acres is covered under various projects (Yeleru, Torigedda LIS, Chagalnadu LIS, Nagarjuna Sagar Left canal, Kovvada, Tadipudi & Pushkaram LIS). Much of the claims of Indira Sagar project is duplication and is only going to be massive waste of public money. Tadipudi and Pushkaram LIS alone cover 4.27 lakh acres! Net benefits of the project are estimated to be a mere 12,000 acres as the land lost to this project is 1,85,000 cares (120000 under Polavaram reservoir, 35,000 acres fro excavation of canals, 30,000 acres for industrialization and urbanization) and already proposed ayacut of 547,000 acres under varied projects.
Displacement underestimated and scope for social justice displaced
AP government mentions of 299 villages (276 in AP, 7 in Orissa & 16 in Chattisgarh) displacing a total population of 1,95,357. Villages forming part of the scheduled area are 297 villages. Eexcept 2 villages in East Godavari of AP all other villages threatened of submergence are in the Scheduled Areas of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. The data of AP government is old and many villages have not been included in the submergible villages. The data provided by the AP is contested by activists and scholars. Studies of M Bharath Bhushan & R Murali, CESS, among others have found AP govt has underestimated and underplayed the the losses.
About 3,30,000 people with Scheduled Tribes constituting around 60% are likely to be affected with the contemplated backwaters level of + 183 feet. It is estimated that about 400 villages will be affected. Massive displacement of adivasis is bound to have irreversible ecological losses with uphill migration of the adivasis and deforestation in the Eastern Ghats. Ecology of Orissa, Chattisgarh and AP is threatened of the uphill migration by displaced tribals. Media reported of the tribal villages already identifying pockets in forest as alternative sites.
It is in sensitive area and displacement of adivasi in large numbers is bound to make the situation volatile in “dandakaranya”.
Ecological concerns Wildlife and biodiversity concerns of Eastern Ghats are beyond state boundaries. There are approximately 10 tigers in the Papikonda sanctuary and about 5 tigers in the affected area as there is abundant water even during the summer. This is the richest forest area in AP in terms of biodiversity and is mostly moist deciduous forest. This forest forms a contiguous forest corridor with the forests in Orissa and Chattisgarh
Flood disaster is underestimated
Much against the AP government’s submission to the GWDT that severe floods of 25 lakh cusecs occurs once in 48 years, it is seen such floods occur within twenty years with such floods occurring in 1986 and 2006! Flood water level (Back water level) at Badrachalam has reached at RL 172 this year with a flood discharge of 20 to 23 lakh cusecs without any Dam. If the proposed Dam is constructed with the height off wall about 84 ft. above the River Bed Level at Polavaram obstructing the Flow would, create heading of the levels which may reach more than +200 ft., at Badrachalam and same may be at Konta of Chattisgarh and Motu of Orissa. Owing to which the submergence of Forest, private land, and villages adversely affected and people displaced would be far above the estimates of the AP government.
Central agencies failing to ensure norms
The Government of A P has commenced the Head Works and the Canal Works before the Site Clearance that was granted on 19-09-2005 and Environment Clearances were obtained on 25-10-2005. Public Hearing was conducted on 10-10-2005 and within 8 days, the A.P. Pollution Control Board has given “No Objection Certificate” on 18-10-2005. The very next day i.e. on 19-10-2005 the Expert Committee of MOE&F has granted Environmental Clearance. It was approved by the MOE&F on 25-10-2005, after the construction of the Project commenced in the Month of March, 2005.
As per the norms the Government is required to hold the Public Hearings in all the areas of submergence due to construction of the Project. But the Public Hearing were not held in the submergence areas of Chhattisgarh and Orissa till date and as on today the Pollution Control Boards of those two states have not given “No Objection Certificate”.