India’s first river-linking project in Andhra Pradesh, linking rivers Godavari and Krishna has been accomplished within six months. Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu said the first pump of the lift scheme for diverting 80 thousand million cubic feet (tmc) of waters from the Godavari into the Krishna, a distance of around 160 km, would start operations from Wednesday night. The project marks the realisation of the grand idea of inter-linking of rivers, which remained a pipe dream at national level for the past several decades. This was the first project taken up by the Naidu government after coming to power in June 2014 and the project contractor, Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL), was offered hefty incentives to finish it in one year. According to industry sources, it would take about two years to complete the fabrication of motors and pumps of this size and number. An agreement between Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh allows AP to divert 80 tmc of water from the Godavari to meet the needs of the Krishna delta. ALSO READ: An irrigation landmark By linking the two rivers, the Naidu government hopes to bring relief to around 1.2 million acres in Krishna and Guntur districts, which face severe water shortage as inflows from upstream Krishna have become increasingly uncertain. The project would also meet the drinking water needs of Vijayawada and the upcoming state capital Amaravati. Naidu had said the water so saved in Krishna river on account of inter-linking would be supplied to the parched lands of Rayalaseema from Srisailam reservoir. ALSO READ: Andhra's first river-linking project: A panacea for farmers' woes? “We will link all the rivers and rivulets in the state to make AP the first drought-proof state in the country,” Naidu said. Popularly known as Pattiseema Project - as the lift scheme is being constructed at a village of the same name in west Godavari district at a cost of Rs 1,300 crore - it comprises 24 pumps each with a 5,300 horse power (HP) capacity and a pumping capacity of 354 cusecs of water. These pumps are supposed to transfer 80 tmc of water in three months - August, September and October - which normally witness floods in river Godavari. The water is being lifted by pumps, which together consume 113 Mw of power, and carried in a pipe up to a little less than 2 km distance and then discharged into the right canal of Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project. Through this canal, the water will travel by gravitation till it flows into Krishna river near Ibrahimpatnam in Krishna district. Pumps operate automatically when Godavari water level reaches 14 ft height. On Wednesday, Naidu attended the ceremonies at Ibrahimpatnam where Godavari water enters Krishna. Pattiseema witnessed hectic activity with 4,000 people, including 2,700 labourers brought in from as far as from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, working day and night. The state government has offered a monetary incentive of 15 per cent on the project cost provided MEIL completes the project by March 2016. The actual work on the project had begun on March 29 this year. “As the time is very short, we have not only deployed a huge number of people, and also ordered for motors and pump sets from Brazil and China apart from getting fabricated some units from the BHEL,” a company official told Business Standard. Seven pumps are expected to be installed by November while the remaining would be done by the end of this year, much ahead of the government dead-line, the official added.
In the past year, the project has attracted as much bad publicity as it has generated a positive name for the government. The opposition parties termed the project a wasteful expenditure. They also alleged costs were inflated and accused the government of taking the project only for the sake of kick-backs. They also accused the state government of neglecting the construction of the Polavaram project, under which diversion of 80 tmc of water into Krishna was only a part. It may be recalled that the Centre had declared Polavaram a national project in the AP Reorganisation Act-2014 and constituted a project authority to complete the project with its own resources. Last year, the Centre had released Rs 250 crore for the Polavaram project. Originally conceived by British engineers in mid 19th century, the Polavaram project was revived in 2004-2005 by the Rajasekhara Reddy government at an estimated cost of Rs 16,000 crore. Later, the Kiran Kumar Reddy government awarded fresh work contracts worth Rs 4,500 crore before the state was bifurcated. So far, the right and left canals have been dug up while the construction of the earth dam, spill way and other structures remain to be completed. This multi-purpose project was designed with a total storage capacity of 150 tmc of water and a power generation capacity of close to 1,000 Mw. The lift scheme becomes redundant once this project gets completed. The other criticism about the lift scheme is that the project will remain mostly useless since Krishna and river Godavari experience floods more or less during the same period.