Protesters hold 'jal satyagraha' against Polavaram project

Taking a cue from the recent success of “Jal Satyagraha” by a group of villagers in Madhya Pradesh, the opponents of a major irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday staged a day-long protest by standing neck-deep in water.

Several tribals and representatives of civil society organizations from Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh joined the protest against Polavaram irrigation project in the coastal region.

Around 500 adivasis from Malkangiri (Odisha), Sukma (Chhattisgarh) and Khammam (AP) took part in “Jal Deeksha” at the confluence of Sabari and Godavari rivers at Kunavaram in Khammam district.

The agitation was launched under the aegis of the “People Against Polavaram Project” (PAPP), an inter-State committee comprising several tribal organisations of AP, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

According to them, the project will adversely affect around 4 lakh people in the Eastern Ghats besides causing irreversible loss to ecology in the region.

Polavaram is a multi-purpose project over Godavari river, aimed providing irrigation to 24 lakh acres spread over six coastal Andhra districts.

It involves construction of South India’s biggest dam, to be built to a height of 150 ft with storage capacity of 75 tmc ft. It is expected to provide drinking water to 25 lakh people in four districts and also generate 960 MW of electricity. Originally conceived in 1940s, the project envisages linking two major rivers in the state--Godavari and Krishna.

Though originally envisaged to harness the Godavari's waters for much needed irrigation purposes in the coastal areas and the arid Rayalaseema region, the project is bogged down by controversies regarding submergence and rehabilitation package to be offered to the affected people.

The neighbouring Odisha has raised objections over the mega project on the ground that It would lead to large scale submergence in the state.

Back home, the project is being strongly opposed by pro-Telangana parties and groups, saying it would sound death-knell to the backward Telangana region.

The anti-Polavaram groups pointed out that the project had no approval by “Grama Sabhas” (village committees) in the regions that face submergence in Odisha, Chhattisgarh and AP.  No public hearings were conducted in the villages, they said.

“The dam is likely to cause massive destruction downstream in the event of dam failure or break,” according to noted environmentalist Prof T Sivaji Rao and retired irrigation engineer T Hanumantha Rao.

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