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Sarma favours alternative design for Polavaram

Sarma favours alternative design for Polavaram
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Visakhapatnam : Former civil servant and social activist EAS Sarma has asked Union Minister for Water Resources Harish Rawat to consider alternative...

Visakhapatnam : Former civil servant and social activist EAS Sarma has asked Union Minister for Water Resources Harish Rawat to consider alternative design for headworks for the Polavaram project as suggested by former engineer-in-chief T Hanumantha Rao. The minister earlier told the Rajya Sabha that the suggestion was not suitable.

Sarma told him that his ministry and Central Water Commission (CWC) have not studied the alternative design for Polavaram which had several comparative advantages vis-a-vis the existing high dam design based on an earth-cum-rock fill dam.

This alternate design was based on barrages on the Godavari and Sabari rivers. The ministry and the CWC had only looked at the 'step ladder technology' design proposed earlier by Hanumantha Rao and, on that basis, for whatever reasons, came to the conclusion that it was not suitable, he said.

Citing advantages of the alternative design, Sarma said the new design provides 79 tmc of water at a much lower cost and with lesser risk. The cost of AD-THR is Rs 9,500 crore compared to Rs 16,200 crore as per the present design. As against the submergence of 270 tribal villages in Andhra Pradesh and 30 more in Chhattisgarh and Odisha, the alternative design would involve no submergence at all in Chhattisgarh and Odisha and submergence of only 72 tribal villages in the State.

It would avoid the contentious inter-State issues and mitigate the serious problem of Adivasis being displaced. Also, this implies the saving of 1-1.5 lakh acres of tribal agricultural land which could then be irrigated through gravity flows from the proposed barrages on the Godavari and Sabari.

The alternative design would provide all the benefits envisaged in HDD, i.e., providing irrigation for 7.2 lakh acres; diverting 80 TMC to Krishna Delta; ensuring water for first and second crops in Krishna and Godavari Deltas; facilitating 23 tmc of drinking and industrial water up to Visakhapatnam, at a much lower cost and less displacement. It would provide hydel power generation capacity of 1,038 MW, Sarma said.

The alternative design would permit inland navigational facility for sea-going vessels of 3,000 tonnes capacity, whereas the project as envisaged now could permit such navigation for only small boats of a few tonnes capacity.

More important was the risk arising from a possible dam break in the project as designed now, the former bureaucrat said. Any breach of the dam, either as a result of extraordinary floods, or an earthquake (the region is in seismic zone 3), or a severe cyclone, or any inadequacy in the structure of the dam itself, could endanger the lives of 45 lakh people living in densely populated downstream areas.

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