Division won’t hit irrigation projects

Division won’t hit irrigation projects
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Highlights

VIDYA SAGAR RAO: Division of Andhra Pradesh Won’t Hit Irrigation Projects. Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy on September 27 elaborated various issues at a media conference, particularly the problems farmers would face in case of division of the State.

  • Over half of Godavari which flows from T to Andhra goes waste and projects can be built to utilize the waters there.
  • Irrigation needs are greater in Krishna basin, though its water level is low. Krishna touches T, Seema and Andhra regions. Projects are already built on it.
  • Whether the State is divided or not, water is allocated project-wise and not based on backwardness of any region
  • Projects like Handri Neeva or Galeru Nagari which CM feared would lose Krishna waters have never had any allocations
  • It is not correct to say more projects could be built if the State remains united. Several States have taken up projects jointly; Madras and Hyderabad, and Andhra and Hyderabad governments joined hands earlier
  • CM was right when he said water distribution would be difficult. But, States can come to a pact without involving Centre. Cops may have to be deployed to avoid water theft, however
  • Major problem to be solved is surplus water. All other problems raised which the CM are imaginary and politically motivated
  • Once the State is divided, a duly constituted Board with Centre’s presence on it will decide water allocation project-wise. No political interference will be there.

Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy on September 27 elaborated various issues at a media conference, particularly the problems farmers would face in case of division of the State. He has pointed out that the Seemandhra areas may suffer if they do not receive Krishna river water. The water distribution to all areas would be practical, if the State remains united, he contended. Irrigation sector specialist and former Chief Engineer of Central Water Commission, R Vidyasagar Rao, tries to allay concerns expressed by the Chief Minister in an interview to K Ramachandramurthy, the Editor-in-Chief of HMTV and The Hans India, as part of the programme ‘FlashBack.’

Excerpts:

The Chief Minister has pointed out that the Krishna Delta will turn a desert as water from Nagarjuna Sagar and Srisailam might not reach the Krishna Delta. Several people from Seemandhra also have similar apprehensions. What is your opinion on this?

The Chief Minister should have taken the services of some irrigation experts at the media meet. The impact of his speech was terrible and people started believing them, due to the media support to him. First of all, we have to segregate the problems of Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra, since both have a different set of problems. There are 40 rivers in the State, out of which only Krishna and Godavari are the major ones. As far as Telangana is concerned, only Krishna and Godavari basins are important for it, and the rest of the 38 rivers have nothing to do with it. The natural formation is such that waters from the two basins never meet.

Godavari River touches Telangana first and flows down to Andhra. It doesn’t go to Rayalaseema. In case of Krishna River, it also touches Telangana first and it reaches Rayalaseema from where it flows down to coastal Andhra. The major problem is that the water level is very low in Krishna as compared to that of Godavari. The irrigation necessity is more in the Krishna basin and dams are already constructed on this river. However, the irrigation projects, except Polavaram, are yet to be constructed on Godavari basin. There are ample opportunities to develop more projects on Godavari and more than half the water remains unused.

VIDYA SAGAR RAO: Division of Andhra Pradesh Won’t Hit Irrigation Projects

Most of the problems are related to Krishna River. Basically, water could be divided into two parts – assured water and flood water or surplus water. The Planning Commission takes into consideration only 75 per cent of water to be used for agriculture purposes since the flood water is not reliable. In case of excess rainfall, there would be floods. As of today, there are three states – Maharashtra, Karnataka Andhra Pradesh – in that order through which Krishna River passes. Water was used earlier before Bachawat Tribunal as per the mutual agreements among the States.

Bachawat Award finalised the quantity of water to be used by the three states from Krishna River till May 2000. It allocated 811 tmcft to Andhra Pradesh. The water was distributed project-wise but not region-wise. It is not true as some believe that Andhra Pradesh is given more water due to the backwardness of Rayalaseema. The State government allocated about 300 tmcft to Telangana and this was also only project-wise such as Wyra project, Sagar Left canal and others. Rayalaseema was allocated 145 tmcft. The rest of the water was allocated to coastal Andhra. There is no point in discussing now whether this allocation is just or not. Since it was Bachawat Tribunal which allocated water, it is equal to the Supreme Court order.

Whether the state is divided or united, there is no question of releasing more water to one area and less water to other area since water is allocated project-wise.

If the state remains united, the powers-that-be in the government might manipulate the allocation of water. It might decide to stop releasing water to Nagarjuna Sagar and divert it to some other project. It might allocate 5 or 6 tmcft instead of 15.9 tmcft to Rajolibanda Diversion Scheme and divert the water downstream. The glaring example is Rajolibanda Diversion Scheme (RDS). As per the Bachawat Tribunal, the water has to be shared equally between KC Canal and RDS. In reality, Mahbubnagar district, which is supposed to receive 17.9 tmcft, never received more than 5 or 6 tmcft. In addition, surplus water was also being diverted, which amounts to 60-70 tmcft. It has been being manipulated for the last several years. Rayalaseema never received any water from Krishna River till NT Rama Rao came to power. They received water only from Tungabhadra. After NT Rama Rao decided to release water to Chennai from Srisailam, for the first time the Rayalaseema received Krishna water though Potireddypadu project. On the way to Chennai, Rayalaseema also receives irrigation water from Krishna River somehow manipulating the allocation.

The Bachawat Tribunal has given the facility to utilize surplus water or flood water for irrigation purpose. The upstream States demanded a share from surplus water. However, the AP Government did not agree to it. By using the facility given by Bachawat Tribunal, the State government constructed projects without acquiring any right. It took it for granted that there was 227.5 tmcft surplus water and allocated 145 tmcft to Rayalaseema and about 70 tmcft to Prakasam district. When the government applied to the Central Water Commission to use the surplus water through the projects, the CWC rejected it, stating the state had no right to use the surplus water. In the hope that we would receive surplus water in future, seven projects - Handri Neeva, Telugu Ganga, Galeru Nagari, Nettempadu, Virikonda, Kalwakurthy, Srisailam Left Bank Canal - were constructed.

The upstream States of Maharashtra and Karnataka have taken strong objection to the construction of the projects and referred it to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court referred the matter to the new tribunal. The new tribunal asked the State government to stop the construction of the projects. However, the State government appealed to the tribunal to let the projects be completed and they would accept whatever quantity of surplus water was allocated to the state. The projects like Handri Neeva or Galeru Nagari which were being referred to by the Chief Minister have no allocation of water at all.

Let us pinpoint the arguments of the Chief Minister who wondered how the States of Telangana and Seemandhra would share the river waters. Tungabhadra dam is jointly constructed by the Madras government and the Hyderabad government long ago. Even Nagarjuna Sagar was also constructed jointly by the Andhra government and the Hyderabad government. The point here is that any project could be constructed on any river and there are no restrictions for it.

There are projects like Pranahita and Lendi which are being constructed jointly. Some projects are constructed by respective States. The Chief Minister is not right when he suggests that we could construct more projects if the State is united. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have jointly constructed a number of projects.

The Chief Minister has also referred to the distribution of irrigation water. It would be well and good if two States could come to an agreement and supervise the projects jointly without the intervention of the Central government. But there is no precedence in the country in this regard. That is why the River Control Board Act was enacted. As per the enactment, there would be a Board for the maintenance of projects. The control board would consist of a CWC member, representatives of States and the board would be presided by the Central Government.

The Board would decide the allocation of water to respective States depending upon the availability of water in the river. There need not be any problem. However, there are problems as stated by the Chief Minister. The Tungabhadra Control Board is not functioning properly and the Chief Minister was right. For instance, the Tungabhadra Board determines the quantity of water to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. However, before water reaching Andhra Pradesh, the Karnataka farmers use more water than they were allotted. It is a common problem and could not be prevented. It could be prevented by employing CRPF personnel holding guns along the length of the canal to stop the pilferage.

The Chief Minister at the media conference and during an interview to Rajya Sabha TV pointed out that the irrigation water accords between the States have not been implemented.

It is true. But if that is the problem Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh should be made one State or country to overcome that problem. It cannot be said that division of the State would result in such problems. The Chief Minister claims that there would be water battles if the state is divided, but there would be battle for water even if the State is not divided.

The main problem has arisen after the water is not supplied as per the laid-out rules. The Chief Minister stated that there was trouble between areas of Mahbubnagar and Kurnool in the united State and it would intensify if the State is divided. In fact, the problem would be solved forever if the State is divided. In the united Andhra Pradesh, the successive Chief Ministers have allocated water to their areas as per their whims and fancies. After the division of the State, there would be control boards to allocate water to all areas equally.

After the division of the State, a committee would be formed to solve problems between the two States. In fact, 90 per cent of the problems are already solved. The quantity of water is allocated to each project. The major problem to be solved is surplus water. There is a clause that the State of Andhra Pradesh could utilize the surplus water or flood water. In such a scenario, the Central government would intervene and decide the quantum of surplus water to be used by Telangana and Andhra states.

Anyway, all these problems are hypothetical and imaginary. The Chief Minister only raised these issues with political motive, to appease the people of one region and to involve the farmers in the agitation. Other than that, there is no basis for the apprehensions.

The leaders of Krishna delta have also expressed apprehensions that the Krishna delta would turn into a desert if the State is divided

But, they should substantiate their argument. In fact, the leaders of Rayalaseema rightly raised a point in this respect. The Krishna delta has no irrigation problems at all. They have Krishna and Godavari. The North Andhra has its own rivers like Nagavali. The problem for Krishna delta is only delay in receiving water from Krishna due to the projects like Almatti.

In case of formation of Telangana State, Maharashtra would utilize 584 tmcft of Krishna water first, and later Karnataka would utilize 737 tmcft – and if everything goes right – followed by 300 tmcft will come to Telangana. The Krishna delta farmers, who have been complaining that Almatti dam is stopping the water would now complain that Jurala project is stopping the water. This would result in more delay in reaching water to Krishna delta. That is why they are opposing the division of the state. Though the Krishna delta farmers have been claiming riparian rights, it is in their minds only, but not on any record.

The Tribunal has clearly stated that once the allocation has been made project-wise, each project would have equal status and every project would get its allocated share of water. If there is plenty of water, the projects would share it equally and if there is no surplus water, all the projects would get equal share. After the new tribunal is formed, the new body would decide the quantity of water to be released to each and every project and canal. There would not be any political interference.

Will political interference cease and how?

Yes. Due to division of State, they would not get less water than they are entitled to. They claim there would be water wars. Yes, water wars would occur all over the world when there is scarcity. Here also, the same thing happens when there is scarcity of water. Rayalaseema has only Penna River for its water source. It has 18 per cent Krishna riparian area and it is getting that much water. They need another 300 tmcft of water. They have been demanding that for the last hundred years or more. McKenzie Committee and Irrigation Commission said since is drought-prone, it should get additional water from Krishna.

The then Madras government proposed to build Krishna –Penna canal to meet the water needs of Rayalaseema. But it was not allowed then. Now the question is where will they get it? Not from Telangana as it has fluoride-affected areas and needs more water. It should come from Andhra quota. They would not agree. The solution is that the Centre should be pressurized to allocate water from Godavari. But it is not possible because the river water is a state subject and the Centre cannot do a thing.

Do you support the demand that river waters should be in concurrent list?

Yes. But the Constitution should be amended to do that. No State is agreeing to it.

Is it a fact that K L Rao changed the place of Nagarjuna Sagar to benefit Krishna district?

KL Rao was a great engineer. He was a great intellectual. But, it was said that the site was changed by K L Rao for the benefit of Krishna district. There is no proof to prove the allegation. Second thing, he was responsible for changing the alignment of Left canal to the detriment of Telangana. It lost 11 tmcft of water which was later allocated to Nuzivid-Tiruvur in Krishna district. This allegation has substance. The earlier allegation has no proof. I shall be happy if anybody shows me one advantage if the State is united in allocation of water.

Andhra people have apprehensions that Polavar- am would not take off if the State is divided. What do you say?

Telangana people opposed it earlier. If a State is created, it would also oppose the plan. Telangana people objected to the present design and wanted a better design to minimize submerging of villages. So, they did not agree.

Engineering expert Dharma Rao designed a better plan. Myself, Potturi Venkateswara Rao, Hargopal and others endorsed it.

Yes, it is true.

Can we say it will not make any difference by bifurcating the state or keeping it united in regard to water allocation?

You are absolutely correct, provided the allocated water is supplied to all the regions without any discrimination. But that is not happening.

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