Backwater from Polavaram Project wrecks lives in tribal villages

Backwater from Polavaram project flooded Oddigudem village of VR Puram mandal in East Godavari district
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Backwater from Polavaram project flooded Oddigudem village of VR Puram mandal in East Godavari district

Highlights

  • Flooding of villages and agricultural fields stalls farming activity in tribal areas
  • Instead of tilling their lands in Kharif season, they are busy shifting their belongings to safer places

Rajamahendravaram: The Polavaram Project is being constructed to irrigate thousands of acres of parched farmlands in Andhra Pradesh, but it has become a bane for the tribals living in nearby villages as backwater of the project has flooded their villages and they are running helter-skelter to save their life instead of tilling their lands in this Kharif season.

Therefore, farmers are nowadays are engaged in shifting their residences to safer places due to the submergence of their villages and houses.

The cofferdam has been constructed with a height of 39 meters on the Godavari River to store the excess water. Only 15,000 cusecs of water per day on an average is released through the spillway at Polavaram Project towards Dowleswaram barrage. The flood situation changed after the construction of the cofferdam.

Before the construction of the cofferdam, the water in Godavari River used to flow freely without any inconvenience to the agency villages. But now, the water could not flow until the level reaches 25 metres. When the cofferdam stalls the waters up to 25 metres, the backwater enters the nearby villages. The transportation facility is cut to 40 villages from Devipatnam in the Agency area as the road is damaged between Dandangi and Thoyeeru way due to the floodwaters.

The people of Devipatnam mandal are evacuating their villages and going to safer places and nearby hillock areas. The backwaters encircled the villages in Chinturu and VRPuram mandals and the people of some of the villages in Chinturu division have already shifted their belongings to safer places.

The Agency village of Devipatnam in Rampachodavaram division and Chinturu, Kunavaram, VR Puram and Yetapaka in merged mandals are facing a flood threat due to the backwaters. The backwaters are stagnated in the villages and daily thousands of cusecs of water is accumulating. As a result, many villages and fields are inundated. There is no way to cultivate in these villages at present. Already the stagnated waters emanating smell and remaining villages are also not suitable to reside.

Due to the huge volume of backwater, the level is increasing at Sabari and Godavari confluence. The people of these areas are afraid of the submergence of their villages. When the villages in combined Andhra Pradesh came under Telangana, they had not faced such bad experiences. But after merging the villages in Andhra Pradesh, due to Polavaram project they are facing hardships, said a farmer Pusam Raghavayya. He said that the officials are insisting on their evacuation and he wonders how they can live without farming. He also commented that any criticism against the government would result in filing of cases against them and they will face legal problems. Hence, nobody is coming forward to ventilate their problems and express their fears regarding future.

He said that the government has not settled Rehabilitation & Resettlement (R&R) package and constructed rehabilitation colonies. He appealed to the state government to expedite the R&R package and provide them with houses in rehabilitation colonies.

Another farmer N Srinivasarao questioned how could they vacate the place when they are planning to sow cotton and paddy. He said how they eke out their livelihood when asked to vacate the place. He expressed his fear that many of the villagers are left with no avenue for their livelihood. He criticised the government for the nonpayment of compensation for crop damage for the last two years. He bitterly complained that they have not received either crop loans and subsidies from the government so far. He further stated that they would get yield only if they cultivate but it is not possible because of flooding. Chinturu ITDA Project Officer Ramana told 'The Hans India' that they have not shifted the tribal people from their places so far. If they get indications of the flood, they would shift the people from the affected areas.

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