Displacing Godavari and Its People – Polavaram Dam శుక్రవారం, నవం 6 2015 

Book review
When Godavari Comes: People’s History of a River–Journeys in the Zone of the Dispossessed by R Uma Maheshwari, New Delhi: Aakar Books, 2014; pp 486 + xviii, Rs 595.

N Venugopal (venugopalraon@yahoo.com) is the editor of Veekshanam, a Telugu monthly journal of political economy and society.

Polavaram multipurpose irrigation project across the Godavari River is likely to displace more than 3,00,000 people, mostly Adivasis, by submerging over 300 habitations. It will also submerge forests with rich biodiversity, a hill range, a river and several streams, agricultural lands, and cultural sites. The highly controversial project, first envisaged in the 1940s under the colonial government, was actually taken up by the Government of Andhra Pradesh in 2006, without proper sanctions and clearances from many statutory bodies. The project violates safeguards provided to Adivasis in the Constitution as well as several legislations, including the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The works on the project began and continued without approvals like clearance for revised costs by the Expenditure (Finance) Committee; Central Electrical Authority’s clearance for power component; approvals from gram sabhas in the submergence areas in Odisha and Chhattisgarh states; approval of Forest (Conservation) Act for submergence areas in Odisha and Chhattisgarh; techno-economic clearance from the Central Water Commission (CWC); and CWC approval for dam design and operation schedule. In fact, the project is under litigation with several cases pending in the Supreme Court (SC) filed by governments of Chhattisgarh and Odisha as well as environmental and Adivasi groups. The project is also in violation of the National Tribal Policy as it violates the direction, “any project which displaces more than 50,000 tribal people should not be taken up.” In 2006, the SC appointed a Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to study the concerns and the CEC report said,
there is, therefore, a strong case for a second thought and explore alternative location and design of the dam to avoid the colossal loss in terms of apprehended sufferings and disruption of life style of the local inhabitants.

Tussle between States

Despite these counterpoints, the Government of Andhra Pradesh continued the works without any respect for the legal process, technical objections and social debate. The people’s movement for bifurcation of the state and formation of Telangana somewhat slowed down the pace of the works and during the movement, many Telangana votaries including Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) opposed the construction of the dam, primarily on the displacement plank. However, when the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill was moved in Parliament, recognition to Polavaram as a national project was mooted. The leaders of would-be Andhra Pradesh expressed suspicion that Telangana may oppose the project and raise litigation if the to-be submerged villages are left in Telangana and sought the villages to be given to Andhra Pradesh. All the villages passed resolutions in their gram sabhas to retain them in Telangana.

The bill became an Act in February and in May, the new government that came to power in Delhi promulgated an ordinance favouring the demand of Andhra Pradesh, transferring six mandals and some villages. Telangana immediately responded with a bandh called by the ruling party TRS against the ordinance, but, later the ordinance (amendment to the act) was almost accepted, without even challenging it in a court of law. The funniest part is that the “people’s representative” elected by the transferred villages now sits in Telangana Assembly while the people he is supposed to represent live in another state!

Movement and Resistance

Thus, Polavaram is a classic case of Adivasi displacement, deception, violation of laws, political gimmicks, constitutional and legal improprieties, corruption, etc. Notwithstanding this unique position, the comprehensive story of Polavaram is yet to be told. Over the last decade, it occupied a large space in local language media but not the deserving attention of the country. Though the people in the submergence zone as well as outside have been fighting against this gross injustice, the people’s movements against displacement have not attracted national attention. In this context, When Godavari Comes: People’s History of a River by R Umamaheshwari is a much-needed and remarkable attempt based on a number of journeys the author made in the zone of the dispossessed during five years between 2006 and 2010 and updating her story till mid-2014. (మరింత…)


Polavaram Dam: Corrupt interests at the expense of noble alternatives గురువారం, అక్టో 25 2012 

Observational Report on the Polavaram Dam Project and Surrounding Areas
– Drew Bahr
, HELP International Intern

During the summer of 2011 I had the opportunity to personally witness the proposed construction site of the Polavaram Dam as well as interview three engineers and environment experts with alternative proposals and view the conditions of the people in the proposed area of displacement that would be created by the Dam. During this three-day journey from Hyderabad to northern Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, I was surprised to find that many things are not as they were officially described by the government.

Our trip began with an effort to document the present existence of canals to provide irrigation for the surrounding countryside from the Godavari River to refute the claim that the Dam is necessary to provide irrigation for rice and other crops. Although government engineers seem to ignore their presence, we visited perfectly working canals and pumping stations from the river alongside new canals which were supposedly built to take water from the Godavari River to the Krishna River Basin. These larger canals, however, seem to have displaced an inordinate amount of farmers and did not provide means for their local use through pumps or other forms of access.

పోలవరం సంక్షోభం – టీ ఆర్ ఎస్ నీళ్ళు నిజాలు బుధవారం, అక్టో 26 2011 

పోలవరం సంక్షోభం ఎస్ ఈ డబ్ల్యూ కి పరిమతమైతే బానే ఉండేది. ఇది మరో గోదారి స్పెక్ట్రం కుంభకోణం లెక్క అవినీతి, ఆరోపణలు, విచారణలు. వాస్తవాలు తేలినతర్వాత దొరలెవరో దొంగలెవరో నల్గురు వార్తలు చదివి పుర్సత్తుగా మాట్లాడుకొంటరు.

కథ అక్కడ ఆగలేదు. కనుకనే చర్చ. విమర్శ. ఖండనలు. పోలవరం వివాదంలో ఎన్నెన్ని రాజకీయాలో. ప్రస్థుతానికి కొన్నింటిని తప్పనిసరిగా ఆలోచించాలి.

ప్రశ్న ఏంది? జలయగ్నం పేరుతో సాగిన బలియగ్నంలో వాటదారులైన కాంట్రాక్టరు (ఎస్ ఈ డబ్ల్యు) టీ ఆర్ ఎస్ కు బంధువెట్లాయె? నాలుగు పైసలకోసం ఓ క్రిమినల్ ప్రాజెక్టును కట్టి తూర్పు కనుమలను, కోయ జాతిని ఖూని చేసేందుకు ఉవ్వీల్లూరే కాంట్రక్టర్లు పోలవరం మీద యుద్దమే చేసే వాళ్ళకు మిత్రులెట్లాయె. నమస్కారం చేయడానికి ముఖ్యుడెట్లాయే (మరింత…)

To hell with world cup, celebrations, yagams, vacations సోమవారం, ఏప్రి 25 2011 

Opinion/Open Page, The Hindu April 24,2011

Our farmers are dying, to hell with the World Cup
Narendra Shekhawat

Yes, you read it right; to hell with the World Cup; to hell with the celebrations; to hell with all the free land and money being showered by different governments on the players. How can I jump, scream, have gallons of beer and cheer for the nation when a few kilometres away the farmers and feeders of my country are taking their own lives in hordes?

Do you know that, on average, 47 farmers have been committing suicide every single day in the past 16 years in our shining India — the next economic power, progressive with nine per cent growth? (మరింత…)

3rd party EIA for Polavaram Dam or same old joke ఆదివారం, మార్చి 20 2011 

Environment assessment is a joke, says Jairam; wants 3rd party EIA

Business Line, 19 March 2011

“The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) in the current form is a bit of a joke as it is self-assessment by the company. Instead, we will have a third party EIA,” Mr Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Environment and Forests, said.

Speaking to reporters at the CII-Green Business Centre, Mr Ramesh said, “I have been concerned about this. Supreme Court also expressed its concerns. We want a cumulative EIA.” (మరింత…)

Free Vineel Krishna & Pabitra Majhi శనివారం, ఫిబ్ర 19 2011 

Collector’s kidnap: Orissa govt. contacts mediators

The Hindu, Malkangiri/Bhubaneswar, February 18, 2011

Asking Maoists to extend their two-day deadline, Orissa government on Friday said it has established contact with two mediators handpicked by the Naxals to negotiate the release of abducted Malkangiri District Collector R V Krishna and a junior engineer.

“They (Maoists) had given three names for negotiation.

We have established contact with Prof Someswar Rao and Prof Hargopal (both from Andhra Pradesh). They are willing to mediate in the matter,” Chief Secretary B K Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar after a marathon meeting at the Chief Minister’s office here.

The two mediators have accepted the State government’s request to issue an appeal for extension of two-day deadline given by Naxals who kidnapped Mr. Krishna, a 30-year-old IAS officer, and the junior engineer Mr. Pabitra Majhi on Wednesday, the Chief Secretary said.

He said the State government has also contacted social activist Swami Agnivesh, who indicated that the Naxals were considering extending the time-frame of two days to meet their seven-point demands including halt to anti-Naxal joint operations, which has already been conceded, withdrawal of BSF, release of 700 tribal Naxals and scrapping of Polavaram water-sharing project with Andhra Pradesh. (మరింత…)

Polavaram Dam- Evicted & harassed మంగళవారం, నవం 18 2008 

The last crop


R Uma Maheshwari

R Uma Maheshwari
Rama Rao’s field won’t grow food anymore
Compensation fails to rehabilitate Polavaram’s displaced

The day Boragam Rama Rao saw the fresh stocks of his corn crop crushed by large excavators and crane tractors, he knew he had made that transition—from tribal farmer to tribal ‘beneficiary’. At least until he starts reconstructing his life all over again: with Rs 1.2 lakh and a piece of land as yet uncultivable. Rama Rao is the sarpanch of the Mamidigundi panchayat in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district. He has lost nearly a hectare (ha) of land to Indira Sagar Polavaram dam project across the river Godavari.

According to Andhra Pradesh government’s figures, the project will displace 276 villages in Khammam and East and West Godavari districts of the state.




And if the 2001 census is any indicator, 2,37,000 people face displacement—more than 50 per cent of them adivasis.

“Officials told us last year that it would take us eight to 10 years for the barrage dam to come up and we would not be evacuated until waters came in. They assured us that we could continue to farm our lands in Mamidigundi and also enjoy the relief and rehabilitation package,” Rama Rao said. This year, his village was among the first villages to accept the relief and rehabilitation package.

People regret the deal now. “The government acquired more than 80 ha from our village. We were given barely 65 ha as compensation at the relief and rehabilitation colony in Gunjavaram,” Rama Rao lamented. “Back at Mamidigundi, all my crops were rain-fed. I got 40 bags of paddy per acre as the first and 30 to 40 bags of corn for the second crop. The authorities have not compensated me for the damage to my standing crops because they say I have taken the relief and rehabilitation package. They placed orders of arrest (on charges of criminal trespass on government land) when we went to harvest the last crop. At least they could have allowed us to enjoy that last yield from our land,” he continued.

R&R colony

At the relief and rehabilitation colony at Gunjavaram, Boragam Buchiraju was supervising the construction of a new home. He was in a rush to complete the job; he had to start preparing the fields (part of the compensation package) a few kilometers away.

The Buchiraju home under construction

Buchiraju’s father, Kamaraju, is bit of an exception. No other Mamidigundi resident has begun constructing a home at Gunjavaram. Many have already used up the compensation money in bribing officials, paying back earlier loans and in purchasing immediate necessities. Even Kamaraju has spent Rs 80,000 of the Rs 1.2 lakh given for house construction in just putting up a basement.

With the price of bricks, sand, iron and cement hitting the roof in the last few months, many wonder if they will reach that point of laying the foundation.

Kamaraju said to begin agricultural activities afresh on the new lands they would need to invest a minimum of Rs 15,000; then there is the cost of seeds, fertilizers and labour. Even the daily bus or shared autorickshaw trips between the relief and rehabilitation land in Gunjavaram and Mamidigundi cost at least Rs 40 a day. “We would have to spend double of what we spent on our fields in Mamidigundi,” Rama Rao said. “Fields in Gunjavaram do not have Mamidigundi’s water retention capacity, he explained and added that the farmers will have to pay three times the labour cost to make the land cultivable.

But Kamaraju and Rama Rao are still somewhat fortunate. Consider the plight of Boragam Pandamma, a landless labourer. “They gave my family Rs 1.7 lakh. Would it last till we start building the house there? The labour costs of just a verandah and a room is around Rs 2 lakh. Cement and bricks are as dear as gold. When we question the officials, they ask us to manage within that amount.”



Source: Down to Earth, 18 November 2008


Polavaram Dam- A Prescription for National Disaster శుక్రవారం, మార్చి 21 2008 

Polavaram Dam- A Prescription for the Most Shocking National Economic Disaster? 

– Prof T Shivaji Rao

A.P. state proposes to construct a few China-wall like embankments to protect several villages of Khammam District likely to be inundated due to floods due to construction of Polavaram dam. These structures will be 44 Km.long with a height of 189 feet, with a free board of 6 ft. above the level of 183.6 ft., the peak flood mark that touched during the 35 lakh cusecs flood of August 1986. The cost is estimated at Rs.307 crores. Such embankments failed to stop inundation of vast areas of the temple town of Bhadrachalam during the August 2006 floods of Godavari river. The Government insisted that polavaram Dam will be able to discharge a peak flood of 49 lakh cusecs .

But the AP State Government must realise that the Central Water Commission [CWC] has adopted a 1000-year return flood for spillway design for Sardar Sarovar project and 10,000-year return flood for the Tehri dam because Tehri dam failure is likely to cause the death of several lakhs of people in Rishikesh and Haridawar and other towns in gangetic belt in addition to large scale economic damages to crops and properties. The AP State Government stated that the 1986 kind floods occur once in 500 years while 49 lakh cusec floods occur once in 1000 years.

The basic mistake being committed by the AP state Government and the Central Government is their failure to consider that the probable maximum flood (PMF)  shall not only be based on hydrological and technological considerations but also on the socio-economic and environmental considerations including major catastrophic dam failure hazards as per the modern methods followed for the design of the dam and the spillway in almost all the major countries of the world. Since India is also member of the international committee on large dams [ICOLD] it is the duty of the Central Water Commission to revise the design flood of 50 lakhs cusecs [cubic feet per second] as recently calculated by it in October 2006 for the Polavaram project to atleast 75 lakhs cusecs. This view is on the basis of the inflow flood of 1,70,000 cumecs [cubic meters per second] equivalent to about 60 lakhs cusecs as adopted by the eminent hydrological experts of the National Institute of Hydrology [NIH], Roorkee who conducted the dam break analysis operations in June 1999. Dam break analysis was done at the specific request of the Andhra Pradesh state Government for the purpose of preparing disaster management, risk analysis and environmental management programmes as per the conditions stipulated under the regulations of the environmental impact assessment report prepared as per rules of the Environmental Protection Act 1986.

Moreover, the Central Water Commission[CWC] while estimating the 1000-year return period flood for spillway design of the Sardar Sarovar Project had concluded that for the catchment area of 88,000 sq. km of Narmada River, the maximum flood was estimated at 87,000 cumecs and this means that the peak flood estimate comes to about one cumec [cubic meter per second] per sq.km area. Since Godavari catchment area is having similar characteristics and is also adjacent to Narmada catchment in terms of meteorological and topographical features, the probable Maximum Flood [PMF] at Polavaram under similar conditions has to be estimated at about 2 lakhs cumecs which is equivalent to about 75 lakhs cusecs.

.Surprisingly, if the water storage in Polavaram is transformed into an additional incremental flood in case of a dam failure, the additional reservoir -based flood comes to about 70,000 cumecs that is equivalent to about 25 lakhs cusecs. Consequently, the inflow design flood for Polavaram project must be taken as 100 lakh cusecs which is the actual magnitude of flood estimated by the eminent hydrological experts of the National Institute of Hydrology [NIH] in their report on dam break analysis for Polavaram project submitted to the AP State Government as already stated above. In view of the anticipated deaths of lakhs of people in the Gangetic belt due to a hypothetical failure of Tehri Dam, CWC has considered areturn flood of 10,000 years period amounting to15,540 Cumecs from a catchment area of 7,550 sq.km. Since Polavaram Dam is located in a more hazardous site with many highly vulnerable towns and cities, CWC must follow the international guidelines for the design of this major project and should not plan to wipe out of existence 45 lakhs of people in Godavari delta by resorting to the underdesigning of the spillway of Polavaram by using a very low value of 50 lakhs cusecs of probable maximum flood. (మరింత…)

Medaram Jatara- Celebration of Adivasi Pride శనివారం, ఫిబ్ర 23 2008 

Medaram jatara, the largest tribal festival of the country, is celebrated in memory and respect of Sammakka and Saarakka

It is a festival of adivasis. Distinct of the tribal belief and rituals.
Sammakka and Saarakka are Koya woman warriors who fought against Pratapa Rudra armed forces and were killed by the army.
Today the festival is observed by tribals and non tribals from Telangana, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharashtra among other parts of the country
Medaram forests of warangal district wear a spectacular festivity for three days with adivasi pujaris leading millions of devotees offering prayers
Its a celebration of the adviasi pride and a reminder of the undying spirit of simple folks holding only thing close to heart- freedom
Find a few reports on the timeless Medaram Jatara
bharath bhushan
India’s Largest Tribal Fair Draws Millions
Thursday 21st of February 2008
It is a sea of humanity at the four-day Sammakka Sarakka Jatra, India’s largest tribal fair here, with millions of people gathered from many parts of India to worship their tribal deities.

Attired in their best costumes and dancing to folk tunes and drum beats, the tribes people began gathering for the fair from Wednesday at Medaramm, a tiny village amid thick forests, about 110 km from Warangal city.

The tribals have arrived from different parts of Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring states like Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa to worship two legendary tribal women – Sammakka and Sarakka.

The event, held once in two years, is also termed the tribal Kumbh Mela as the scenes here are similar to the religious mega-fairs held on the banks of the Ganges and the Narmada. The crowd during the four-day fair is expected to reach eight million.

According to officials, two million people are already at the fair, which began with the tribal priests bringing goddess Sarakka – also known as Saralamma – after prayers at Kanneboinapalli village, eight km from Medaram.

The devotees walk behind in the path trod by Sarakka in the belief it will bring happiness and prosperity to them.

Joint Collector K. Srinivasa Raju and other government officials accompanied the priests as per custom. It took nearly an hour for them to reach the main altar at Medaram village.

Late in the evening the deity was seated on ‘gadde’ (pedestal), as tens of thousands of devotees vied with each other to touch the pedestal, swaying deliriously to music.

Earlier, thousands took a holy dip in the Jampanna Vagu, a rivulet, before offering obeisance to the deity. Many women believe a bath in the rivulet will get them good husbands. (మరింత…)

Polavaram Dam- Ecological Disaster బుధవారం, జన 23 2008 

Polavaram project in legal wrangle

The multi-crore Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh is currently embroiled in legal issues. But now, the project is being contested on technical issues as well. A study carried out by the International Water Management Institute (iwmi), an international non-profit research and development organization, has questioned the fundamental basis on which the project was designed.

It was designed on the estimation that since the Godavari river has surplus water, it will be transferred to the water-deficit Krishna basin.

 •  Polavaram factfile

The iwmi report has found that the Godavari does not have enough water to spare. A feasibility report by the National Water Development Agency (nwda) on the other hand says Godavari is water surplus. It calculated the surface water availability at Polavaram—the downstream-most dam on the Godavari (there are three dams)—to be 80,170 million cubic metres (mcm), considering 75 per cent assured flow (water available for 75 per cent of time in a year).

nwda officials calculated the figure using annual average rainfall data. iwmi calculated surface water availability to be 36,000 mcm using monthly data. After deducting all water allocations, as designed by nwda, there is a deficit of 37,199 mcm (see table: Godavari: Surplus or not?).

“The problem with the annual average is it does not consider variability of flow within a year, which is very high in monsoon-driven rivers,” says Vladimir Smakhtin, a hydrologist with iwmi, in his report. The catchment area gets around 70 per cent of rainfall just between June and September.

nwda officials disagree. “Estimates based on annual average and monthly average will certainly vary. Since rainfall is not uniform throughout the year, it is better to take annual average. Our methodology is used for all inter-basin water transfer and is peer reviewed and approved by technical experts,” says N K Bhandari, chief engineer with nwda.

Smakhtin says the nwda method of calculation also overlooks the allocation of water to keep the river ecosystem alive. The water used for such purposes is called environmental water, which is an equally important component of use, besides other uses such as irrigation, domestic and industrial projects. “The present planning of inter-basin water transfer is based on future irrigation requirement and ignores environmental water demand, which is important to maintain the ecology of the basin,” says Parikshit Gautam, director, Freshwater and Wetland Conservation Programme, wwf- India. iwmi estimates that 8,200 mcm of water flow is required to keep the river fit for fisheries and wildlife. This itself is a conservative figure as this flow cannot make the river fit for human consumption by checking human and industrial waste.


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