Chandrababu’s Dream To Complete Polavaram Project Could Hit Road Block From Centre  

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Vijayawada, Aug 26: Dark clouds loom over the Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh after a team of an experts of the Union Water Resources Ministry came out with a damning report on the way the project is being executed by the state government.

The report, which is currently under the perusal of the Prime Minister’s Office, could well determine the fate of the project even as Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is desperate to complete it ahead of the next election due in mid-2019.

Simply put, the report says the project execution (by the state government) is not sound and safe under any parameters. Polavaram, which the AP government claims is the lifeline of the state, has been declared as a national project under the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014. The Central government shall execute the project and obtain all requisite clearances, including forests, environmental and rehabilitation and resettlement.

The Union should take under its control the regulation and development of Polavaram, the Act says. Accordingly, the Centre constituted the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) for the purpose. The state government, however, has not handed over the project to the PPA and has been going ahead with the execution for the last two years. Chandrababu had in the past said a couple of times that he was ready to handover Polavaram to the Centre only if it promised to complete it by 2018. But he did not actually make any moves in this regard.

The state government has been repeatedly requesting the Centre to reimburse Rs 1700 crore spent on Polavaram works in the last two years but no payment was forthcoming because of the adverse findings by the experts team, informed sources said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to have taken a serious view of the glaring lapses in the project execution, particularly the omissions of the contractor Transtroy India, owned by a Telugu Desam Party MP.

Following his visit to the project site in April, Special Secretary in the Union Water Resources Ministry and CEO of Polavaram Project Authority Amarjit Singh appointed an expert team comprising very eminent professionals, including a former chairman of Central Water Commission (CWC), to have a holistic assessment of the gaps in the project implementation.

The experts team conducted a four-day study of the project in mid-May and submitted its report to the PPA. The PPA CEO subsequently sent the report to the Union Water Resources Ministry and the AP Chief Secretary, besides forwarding it to the Prime Minister’s Office, a top official here said. As per the award of the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal, the design aspects of the project are to be left to the CWC.

However, the CWC’s role has been ‘truncated’ to an appraiser and there is no involvement in detailed decision making of the project designs, the experts team noted. There are no reviewing mechanisms in place between the PPA and the state government, which is executing the project, as far as the implementation detailing and construction-sequencing is concerned.

The PPA is mandated with the implementation of a safe and economical dam project for which a greater involvement of the agency is a prerequisite. As a matter of fact, they (PPA) should be associated fully with the project implementation, the report said. We have not been able to see the integrated schedule of the project as a whole. A well-thought, discussed and deliberated work plan and sequence has to be in place, which is completely missing. Every time some time lines have been promised (by the state) but so far no details have been made available, the experts team observed.

When contacted for his comments on the experts team’s observations on Polavaram, state Water Resources Minister Devineni Umamaheswara Rao refused to speak. A senior official of the department, who did not wish to be quoted, merely said they have been forwarding status reports on the issue to the PPA regularly. --PTI

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