Can you imagine a project-not any project, perhaps India’s largest irrigation project till date- going on for years without most statutory clearances? Can you imagine a project on which Rs 7000 Crores have been spent already but its Dam height (FRL – Full Reservoir Level) is yet undecided? Can you imagine a project whose canal works are ongoing in full swing, without having any idea of the submergence? Can you imagine a Public Hearing where the Project Engineer says that the meeting is only about compensation not about environmental impacts or fundamental questions? Can you imagine a state which is set to lose thousands of hectares of rich forests, protected areas, villages for a project of a different state, but is happy to oblige? Can you imagine a Ministry which turns a stony Nelson’s Eye to a project continuing right under its nose without Environmental Clearance, Wildlife Clearance or Forest Clearance?
Can you imagine a State government which, despite all these blatant violations, expects a ‘National Project’ tag for this: one of India’s costliest projects till date??
When it comes to the Pranahita Chevella Project, the list of shockers is pretty long.
Pranahita-Chevella link, also called as Dr. B.R Ambedkar Pranahitha Chevella Sujala Sravanthi Project, has been in limelight for many reasons for many years. The project was proposed by former united Andhra Pradesh Government (and is now a part of Telangana State) and has been a part of the infamous Jalayagnam project launched by the then-Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh late Dr. Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy. The project envisages utilising 160 TMC (Thousand Million Cubic Feet, to be lifted in 90 days) of water from River Pranahita which is a major tributary of Godavari River, for a number of purposes. Part of Pranahita water will also be transferred into the Krishna Basin too.
SANDRP was specifically trying to understand the impacts of this mega project on Maharashtra: The Pranahita Barrage (actually it is a mega dam) at Tummuddi Hatti in Adilabad and the downstream Yellampalli barrage, which is a part of this scheme, will submerge more than 2000 hectares land in Maharashtra including dense teak forests and tribal villages from Wardha, Gadchiroli and Chandrapur districts. The recent Report of High Level Committee on Balanced Regional Development Issues in Maharashtra (known as Kelkar Committee Report) has highlighted the backwardness and plight of this region which has been kept away from development initiatives for long.
Surely, for such a project whose main canal is already under construction in Telangana, Maharashtra would be well aware of the impacts and should have taken a considered decision?
But we were in for a rude shock.
Maharashtra’s Ignorance about the project
We tried talking with several officials from the Forest, Tribal and Water Resources (Irrigation) Department of Government of Maharashtra to understand the impacts of Pranahita Chevella Link on the state. However, consistently, officials claim to have no details about the project. Remember, this is a project well underway in Telangana, ironically with canals constructed before the dam! While CAG’s (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) official report states that Maharashtra will be losing about 2123.4 hectares of land (which is severely under reported by print media at 1500 Ha or even less ), officials told SANDRP there has been no estimate of the submergence in Maharashtra for this project.
According to officials from VIDC (Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation under Maharashtra Water Resources Department) that SANDRP talked with, the FRL of the project is not fixed yet and the negotiations are still ongoing between the two states! This comes as utter shock as nearly Rs 7000 Crores have already been spent on this project, so was this expense and canal alignment was without even an idea of the FRL?
Maharashtra’s ignorance is difficult to believe as there have been reports claiming that Maharashtra has agreed to an FRL of 152 meters for Pranhita Barrage and 148 meters for the downstream Yellampally Barrage, both affecting districts of Gadchiroli, Wardha and Chandrapur. While this has reportedly happened recently in December 2014, Maharashtra agreed to conduct a joint survey about submerging villages in May 2013 and gave Site Clearance in July 2013. Strangely, it is reported that the project is “Kept under wraps” as the officials “apprehend trouble from local people” and to “prevent Naxalites and others from hindering the barrage works.”
Going against vulnerable people of its own state seems to be a patently bad strategy! No wonder then that affected villagers from Maharashtra have not allowed any officials to enter their villages for survey! 
So till date, there is no survey, no clarity about land to be submerged and villages to be affected, No Environmental Clearance for the entire Project, No Forest Clearance, No Wildlife Clearance, but project work is going on unhindered!
Impacts of Maharashtra The Pranhita-Chevella project will be submerging significant portion of the Chaprala Wildlife Sanctuary which spreads on 139.44 sq km along right bank of Pranhita River in Gadchiroli District. As told by the Range Forest Officer at Alapalli this sanctuary is also an important corridor for tiger movement. The sanctuary is home to the Giant Indian Squirrel which is the State animal of Maharashtra that is dwindling in number along with variety of wild animals such as wild boar, chital, jackal, langur, peacock, jungle cat, hare, wolf, owl, sloth bear, wild dog, black buck and mongoose.
SANDRP talked to Divisional Forest Officer of (DFO) Gadchiroli, Chief Conservator of Forest of Gadchiroli, Range Forest Officer (RFO) at Alapalli and also the Additional Principal Chief Conservator (Addl. PCCF) of Forest M.S. Nagpur about the forest that will be submerged due to this project and its impact on the wildlife. DFO and RFO informed that they are not aware about this project and have not worked on any survey or estimates regarding the same.
Addl. PCCF said that he is not even aware of any such project! He then added that the proposal might be with DFO.
Intriguingly, locals of Alapalli informed SANDRP that there have been protests about the project, so it’s a difficult to believe that Forest Officials know just nothing about a Project that can submerge 2 Protected Areas in their jurisdiction in near future.
In addition to Chaprala Sanctuary, Maharashtra has recently notified 418 sq. kms of Alapalli Forest Division in Gadchiroli as Pranahita Sanctuary. This region is extremely important as it is a corridor for the near-extinct Wild Buffalo movement from their habitat of Kolamarka forest area in Gadchiroli district to Indravati Tiger Reserve in Chattisgarh. The region is sure to be deeply impacted by the Dam, but it seems no one from the government is bothered about it before giving happy sanctions to Telangana. This is in addition to Pranhita Sanctuary in Telanganga, also in Adilabad District and adjoining the Pranhita River. This Protected Area (PA) is also a Tiger habitat and there is no clarity about the impact of Pranahita Dam on this PA.
So it is clear that Pranahita Dam will affect Chaprala Sanctuary, newly formed Pranhita Sanctuary, thousands of hectares of rich teak forests and tribal communities from three Districts of Maharashtra. Local observers say that these area has Naxal activities because of the backwardness and inability of the state infrastructure to reach them.
However, Maharashtra Government feels perfectly ok about being ignorant of impacts project on its soil and people and Water Resources Department seems it has the right to agree to an FRL without consulting other departments like Forest Department or District administration. Some officials say we don’t know the submergence areas, while some say we have no idea of the project! This is a shocking state of affairs.
About the Project The Pranhita River is the largest tributary of the Godavari and is formed through a confluence of Wainganga and Wardha Rivers at Chaprala village in Gadchiroli District of Maharashtra.
The project is complex and gargantuan in proportions. It consists of many stages and many lifts. As a first step, Water will be lifted from the proposed dam on River Pranahita at Tummidi Hatti village in Adilabad district of Telangana State and will finally be released in Chevella barrage to be built on River Krishna in Telangana. Located at 40 kms from Hyderbad, Chevella is a Mandal in Rangareddi District of Telangana. The total length of canals transferring this water through undulating (mostly uphill!) terrain is an 1055 KM and total length of tunnels is 209 KM.
Following are the multiple stages through which water will be transferred by Canals, Tunnels, Lifts, Reservoirs and Distributary Networks.
|Sr. No.||Canal||Canal Length (KM)|
|1||From Barrage on Pranhita near Tummidi Hatti to Sripada Sagar Reservoir at Yelampalli on Godavari main river||116.00|
|2||From Sripada Rao Sagar Reservoir at Yelampalli to Mid Manair Reservoir on Maner River||36.63|
|3||From Mid Manair Reservoir to Upper Manair Reservoir||44.15|
|4||From Mid Manair Reservoir to Thipparam Reservoir||70.60|
|5||From Thipparam Reservoir to Chaitalya||125.70|
|6||From Thipparam Reservoir to Chevella||327.95|
|7||From Sripada Sagar Reservoir to Nijamsagar CanalFrom Sripada Sagar Reservoir to Masani-Manachi||333.87|
|Total length of Canal||1054.70|
|(Source: Documents obtained by SANDRP from Chandrapur Irrigation Division of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation Maharashtra)|
The project plans to lift 160 TMC water from Pranahita River to irrigate a command area of a whopping 16,40,000 acres in seven districts in Telangana including Adilabad, Medak, Nalgonda, Nizamabad, Warangal, Karimnagar and Ranga reddy Districts using 124 TMC water for irrigation, provide 10 TMC water to en route villages, 30 TMC drinking water to Hyderabad & Secunderabad and 16 TMC water for industrial use. Project involves at least 19 lifts.
The Minutes of the 27th Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of River Valley and Hydropower Projects under Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change that approved the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the project on June 15-16, 2009 says: “A total of 9,810 ha of land will be required for construction of this project. Out of this forest land is 980 ha, patta land 6170 ha and Government land The project was earlier discussed in the Dec 2007 EAC meeting, where the project proposal also involved a 2500 MW Thermal Power project and land requirement of 29,066 ha for the canals!
According to the CAG’s Performance Audit report of 2012 for Andhra Pradesh Jalayagnam project, the project cost was Rs 38,500 crores as per Dec 2008 prices and Rs 2205 crores were already spent at the time of public hearing. Project required 34,000 ha of land as per the CAG report and about 1100 ha of land was acquired. The CAG report says (Chapter 5): “The DPR was submitted in April 2010 while the project works were awarded during May 2008 to May 2009. While most of the agreements stipulated completion period as four years, the DPR, which was prepared later, stipulated the completion period of the project as eight years… As per the DPR of Pranahita Chevella, a total extent of 6140 acres will be submerged due to this project, out of which, 5247 acres (85.45 per cent! 2123.4 hectares) falls within Maharashtra. However, the GoAP went ahead with awarding works (May 2008 – May 2009) without sorting out the inter-state issues and entering into any formal agreement with GoM in this regard. The GoM had requested the GoAP in October 2010 to conclude an agreement for formation of an Inter State Board (ISB) and draft protocol to sort out the issues relating to submergence. In May 2012 both the States signed an agreement to form an ISB to oversee the investigation, preparation of DPR and other issues relating to this project.”
The Irrigation Department, Government of Telangana is trying to get the status of National project to this Irrigation project, with which the Government of Telangana hopes to get 90% financial Grant from Central Government funds.
Is the project feasible?
Feasibility of the project is questionable for multiple reasons. Project proposes to lift water from Pranhita River and crossing the ridge line of Godavari Basin near Narsapur village in Medak District of Telangana release it in Krishna Basin in a proposed barrage at Chevella. Elevation of Pranhita River at Tummidi Hatti is 150 mts and the level at Chevella is 600 mts. In between, water has to be lifted at many elevated places.
Average pumping head of the project is 530 mts and total pumping head for the project is 1270 mts. The project requires an unbelievable 3,466 MW of power which is about one third of total installed capacity of the state. Annual electricity requirement is of 7.5 billion KWhr. According to Forum for Action Research and Policy Analysis (FARPA) the project is technically and economically unviable. FARPA also has raised questions about availability of water. CAG also in its report in 2012 had pointed out that the Chevella project was proposed without assessing the availability of required quantity of water.
SANDRP also contacted Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS) which has submitted a report to Maharashtra Government based on which the Government has approved the Pranhita Dam. However the officials from CWPRS were reluctant to share any details of the report.
Work started without Environmental Clearance
Foundation stone for the project was laid down on 20th November 2012 well before the project secured any mandatory clearances like Environmental Clearance and Forest Clearance. Even today, more than 2 years after inauguration, the project is yet to apply for a complete environment, forest or wildlife clearance. And despite this, Government of Telangana has already acquired land for canals and expedited the construction of main canal! As per documents obtained from Chandrapur Irrigation Division of Maharashtra the excavation works for construction of main canal is under progress about 8 KM downstream of the proposed dam on Pranahita. This work has been illegally in progress since last one year.
Misleading Public Hearings
Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIA Report) prepared by WAPCOS is not available in public domain. This is in clear violation of environmental norms and Central Information Commissions orders.
Environmental Public Hearings (EPH) were conducted in seven districts of Telangana during April & May 2011 on following dates
|District||Date of EPH|
Further the reports of the Environmental Public Hearings (EPH Minutes) conducted at seven districts in Telangana State are full of selective and misleading information and objectionable remarks by Government officials. E.g. Chief Engineer of the project B. Mallikarjuna Rao stated in EPH of Adilabad District “…As this is a River Valley Project, it does not generate any pollution problems on Air, Water, Land & Noise…”. Same chief engineer in EPH of Medak District states that the present public hearing is mainly about environmental pollution problems due to the project. He further adds “They have appointed M/s WAPCOS to carryout out Environmental Impact Assessment. As per the EIA report, there will not be any air, water and soil pollution due to the project. There will be positive impact such as good for green belt development and better crop yield and overall development of the area.” When Public Hearing is supposed to be an occasion for informed discussion about the project, its impacts and mitigation measures, the Addl joint commissioner of Adilabad District states in the EPH of Adilabad “… the issue today is not how much area the farmer is losing due to acquisition, but how much compensation will be given.” Thus negating ANY discussions about the project itself!
Forceful land acquisition without compensation
EPH minutes show that the land is being forcefully acquired from people by Revenue Officials without settling their claims. E.g. EPH minutes of Adilabad District state that the farmers from Ranwelli & Gundalbori villages have been threatened by Contractors & Leaders. The government has also been giving mobilization advance to the contractors prior to the work allotment.
No mention of Fisher Community
River Pranhita has been a home for fish species like Catla, Rohu, Mrigal, Kalbas, Rengusu, Marad, Mangoor etc. significant portion of population of these districts is involved in fishing. Inland fish production and fisher population of the districts of Telangana where the EPH for the project was conducted is shown in table below. The seven districts together support more than a two lakh fisher people. However none of the minutes of EPH conducted in seven districts (which are uploaded on APPCB website) even mention the impacts on fisheries and livelihood of people. There has been no talk of compensation or fishing rights.
|Inland fish production and fisher population of the districts affected by Pranhita-Chewella Project(Source: Statistical Year Book 2013)|
|Sr. No.||District Name||Inland fish and prawn production (Tonnes)||Fisher population||Members of the fishing community (Including marketing, repair of fishing instruments etc.|
Concerns about EIA conducted by WAPCOS
Seeing these responses of high ranking officials and the skewed and misleading EPH Minutes, serious questions could be raised about the quality of EIA study conducted by WAPCOS which is well known for shoddy EIAs conducted for various projects. SANDRP has time and again critiqued various poor quality EIAs conducted by WAPCOS. (Some of them could read here: https://sandrp.wordpress.com/?s=WAPCOS) First and foremost question is how was the EIA study conducted when even the height of dam is not yet finalized?
Further, Terms of Reference (TOR) of the EIA to be conducted for the project granted on 11 March 2010 clearly specifies assessment of impacts on ecology in terms of-
- Impact on biodiversity as a result of introduction of irrigation in the command area
- Impacts due to acquisition of forest land, flora & fauna
- Impacts on downstream reverine ecology due to diversion of water for irrigation
- Impacts on ecological sensitive areas, if any
- Impacts on rare, endangered, threatened, medicinally important and other economically important species, if any
- Impacts on migratory routes of wildlife
On the background that the said area is a tiger corridor, importance of sound assessment of ecological impacts need not be highlighted. Now in case of the Pranhita Chewella project how did WAPCOS complete the EIA report without involving the forest officials when the project is going to submerge parts of Chaprala and Pranahita Wildlife Sanctuaries? If the EIA Report at all makes an estimate of the affected forest land how is it that the officials are completely unaware of the project?
Pranahitha Chevella Project is being pushed violating environmental laws and with a complete disregard of its social and environmental impacts. Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change needs to take a serious note of this, ask for its immediate stoppage and set up an enquiry as to how the project work has been going on without any of the statutory clearances and take action against those responsible.
Maharashtra Government, on its part, needs to transparently and urgently share impacts of this project with the affected people as well as citizens at large. It also needs to justify why it is supporting a project which will submerge two of its important protected areas, thousands of hectares of forests and unknown, uncounted tribal communities who have been facing enough hardships already..
Amruta Pradhan (email@example.com), SANDRP
With inputs from Parineeta Dandekar & Himanshu Thakkar
END NOTES:  http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/Maharashtra-Nod-for-Barrage-on-Pranahita/2014/12/19/article2578592.ece  From official website of Jalayagyam  As per official documents obtained from Chandrapur Irrigation Division  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/maharashtra-nod-for-barrage-across-pranahita/article6705027.ece  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/maharashtra-nod-for-barrage-across-pranahita/article6705027.ece  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/maharashtra-clears-site-for-barrage-across-pranahitachevella/article4745723.ece  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/stiff-opposition-to-pranahita-project/article6104827.ece?ref=relatedNews  http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/chaprala-wildlife-sanctuary/article3195397.ece  http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/state-gets-3-new-sanctuaries-in-pranhita-isapur-sudhagad/#sthash.Y2deNpRt.dpuf, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/State-tops-country-in-PA-network/articleshow/41738450.cms  http://www.nirmalcity.com/pranahita_adilabad_ap_telangana_wildlife_sanctuary.html  Minutes of the 27th EAC meeting dated June 15-16, 2009.  http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/pranahitachevella-agreement-to-open-new-chapter-in-water-sharing/article3386043.ece  EPH Minutes of Adilabad District  Minutes of Environmental Public Hearing conducted at Adilabad on 21-04-2011  Environmental Public Hearing Minutes of Adilabad District  Documents obtained by SANDRP from Chandrapur Irrigation Division of Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation  http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/article3384953.ece  “CAG blows the lid off Massive irrigation scam in Andhra Pradesh” by SANDRP  http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/Maharashtra-Nod-for-Barrage-on-Pranahita/2014/12/19/article2578592.ece  Dams Rivers & People Volume 8 Issue 1-2 Feb-March 2010  http://environmentclearance.nic.in/Search.aspx  Executive summary of Pre-Feasibility Report of Pranhita Hydroelectric project conducted y WAPCOS  http://www.appcb.ap.nic.in/public%20hearing/dir_con_torr.php  http://environmentclearance.nic.in/Auth/openletter.aspx?TOR=1775