Union Water Resources minister Nitin Gadkari, who inspected the Polavaram works last evening, ruled out the possibility of finishing the project by 2018 and promised to try his level best to complete it before the 2019 elections.
The minister also did not clarify whether the Centre would foot the bill of the land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement as so far it had maintained that only the cost of the "irrigation component" would be met.
"The Chief Minister (Chandrababu Naidu) has been requesting that before December 2018 at least the dam be completed. But I just assured him that December...probably 3-4 months after that we will try to start it. It's a very difficult and challenging task, but I will try my level best to make it fast. The CM's target is very important," Gadkari told reporters.
The state Water Resources Department, in a recent official presentation, said, "It is programmed to supply water to the ayacut by gravity by June 2018. It is programmed to complete the (Polavaram) project by 2019,"
The chief minister, however, himself reset the timeline yesterday by announcing that water from Polavaram would be supplied through gravity only by 2019.
"Before going to elections (due in May 2019) we want to complete the project," Chandrababu said at a public meeting in Vijayawada, after foundation stone for an inland waterway was laid, and later at the Polavaram site.
Here too, Gadkari only said he would try his level best to complete the project before the next election.