Open Letter to Govt: Is there any justification for Polavaram dam? Will Govt probe the irregularities in the project?

Tribals from Odishna, Andhra and Chattisgarh oppose Polavaram Photo: The Hindu

E.A.S.Sarma

14-40-4/1 Gokhale Road

Maharanipeta

Visakhapatnam 530002

Mobile: 919866021646

Email: eassarma@gmail.com

15-10-2016

To

Shri Ashok Lavasa

Secretary (Expenditure)

Ministry of Finance

Govt of india

 

Shri Shashi Shekhar

Secretary

Ministry of Water Resources (MOWR)

Govt of India

 

Shri G S Jha

Chairmam

Central Water Commission (CWC)

Govt of India

 

Dr Shyam S Agarwal

Secretary

Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MOTA)

Govt of India

to:        Ashok Lavasa alavasa@nic.in, ashoklavasa@gmail.com, secyexp@nic.in, secy-mowr@nic.in, envisect@nic.in, secy-tribal@nic.in, chairman-cwc@nic.in, mdr@nic.in, mrm@nic.in, mwp@nic.in

cc:        grievance-cwc@nic.in, hshso@nic.in, nmisra@rediffmail.com

Dear S/Shri Lavasa/ Shashi Shekhar/ Jha and Dr Agarwal,

Subject: Financial improprieties and illegalities in the execution of Indirasagar (Polavaram) Project & Pattiseema Lift Irrigation Project in AP- Central government agencies conniving with the State public functionaries in committing serious irregularities- Demand an independent investigation

I refer to my previous letters dated 20-12-2015 & 7-10-2016 addressed to you on the subject.

In my correspondence with you, I had pointed out to you the injustice meted out by the Centre and the State to lakhs of adivasis whose lands are getting submerged under the Polavaram project. There have been serious statutory violations in terms of an outright infringement of both PESA and FRA, as well as bypassing of the requirements of the Environment (Protection) Act. In addition, the State has violated its assurance that each adivasi family displaced in Polavaram should be given an equivalent extent of ayacut land as a precondition to the clearance of the project.

There have been serious financial improprieties committed in the selection of contractors and payments made to them. Since the AP Reorganisation Act has placed the onus on the Centre to assume responsibility for the project as a “National Project”, the responsibility for both the statutory violations and the financial improprieties now devolve on the Centre as well. The Centre can no longer wash its hands off these improprieties.

In my letters, I had pointed out how the State had unilaterally implemented thePattiseema Lift Irrigation project at a cost of Rs 2,000 crores to feed the Right Bank Canal of Polavaram project, purportedly as a part of the Polavaram project itself and apparently, there were financial improprieties committed in its implementation.

Pattiseema Googla Earth Map (Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP)

Pattiseema Googla Earth Map (Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP)

The latest development in this direction is that the State has once again acted unilaterally by sanctioning the Purushothapatnam Lift Irrigation Project at a cost of Rs 1,638 Crores to feed the Left Bank Canal of Polavaram.

I enclose here copies of the Govt Orders issued in respect of Pattiseema and Purushothapatnam LI Projects for your ready reference and information. A comparison of the technical/ financial implications of these two projects are tabulated below.

Project Capacity (Cusecs) Cost
Pattiseema 8500 Rs 1300 Cr (likely to reach Rs 2000 Cr)
Purushothapatnam 3500 Rs 1705 Crores

The Govt orders issued by the State indicate debiting the expenditure on both these projects to the following budgetary head.

DA4700-Capital out lay in Major Irrigation – 01 Major Irrigation – Commercial – MH 120Polavaram Barrage – GH (12) –Central assistance to state development plan – SH (27) – Canals and Distributaries – 530 Major works – 531 Other expenditure”

This clearly shows that the State has assumed that the funds for both these projects would come from the Centre. I wonder whether the State has kept theMinistry of Finance of this!

I am also not sure whether the State Irrigation Department has got these projects approved by the Central Water Commission from the point of view of the efficacy of the technical design and the cost estimates. I am not sure whether the Union Ministry of Environment has ever been consulted.

Location map of Polavaram with the Submergence area

Location map of Polavaram with the Submergence area

In my earlier correspondence, I had requested the Centre to order an independent investigation from the point of view of the following concerns.

  • Who are the public functionaries responsible directly and indirectly for violating the provisions of PESA and the the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (Forest Rights Act) that has caused an irreparable loss to the adivasis?
  • Who are the public functionaries in the State and the Central government agencies who have tacitly allowed the State to unauthorisedly take up Pattiseema project as a part of the Polavaram project, distort its design and scope and add to the overall costs? Were the established norms of tendering procedures in the selection of the contractors and allowing them rates higher than permitted violated the procedures to the detriment of the public interest?
  • Have there been irregularities/ improprieties in payment of compensation to the families displaced in both Polavaram project and Pattiseema project?
  • Have there been violations in the R&R plan for the adivasis? Who are the public functionaries responsible for such violations?
  • Has there been any money-laundering in the execution of Polavaram project and the Pattiseema project? If so, who are the public functionaries involved?
  • Has there been any diversion from the funds released for Polavaram to other purposes in AP?

I hope that the Centre is acting on the above.

Now that the State, on its own, has decided to implement two major Lift Irrigation Projects viz Pattiseema & Purushothapatmam LI projects at a huge cost exceeding Rs 3,700 crores to divert water for the Right and Left Bank Canal systems of the original Polavaram project, is it necessary at all any longer to continue work on the main dam component of Polavaram project, displacing lakhs of adivasis for no valid reason?

I feel distressed and perplexed at the complicity of the different Central Ministries in allowing the State to take such unilateral decisions which impact the Central budget and which in turn render the main Polavaram project almost redundant.

Should the Ministry of Tribal Affairs adopt a passive role in watching the adivasi families being displaced and deprived of their rights under PESA, FRA?

Should the Ministry of Water Resources/ CWC become a willing party to the State implementing projects that distort the design and scope of Polavaram project and render the public expenditure on that project totally infructuous?

Should the Union Environment Ministry continue to adopt an ostrich-like stance in allowing the State to continue violating the requirements of the Environment (Protection) Act?

Should the Ministry of Finance become an abettor of the serious financial improprieties being wantonly committed by the State in Polavaram, Pattiseema and Purushothapatnam projects?

The Cost estimates indicated above do not reveal the whole story which is unfolding. The Right and Left Bank canals have already caved in at places and they need to be re-excavated at double the cost. The downstream distributory systems have not yet been taken up. The State is meddling with the height of the coffer dam which is a part of Polavaram and the contractors all around are being paid in excess of the approved rates. If there is a major scam breaking out in this, the Central government will surely take a portion of the blame.

May I request each one of you to act urgently and in a preemptive manner before you lose control over the happenings in Polavaram?

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to GOI

Visakhapatnam

3 Comments on “Open Letter to Govt: Is there any justification for Polavaram dam? Will Govt probe the irregularities in the project?

  1. Whether Polavaram barrage is completed or not, Pattiseema and Purushothamapatnam lift schemes are very essential to mitigate the drought conditions in nearly half of Andhra Pradesh area. At least 40,000 cusecs water is going to sea during the 4 months monsoon period. This water (up to 12,000 cusecs) can be used by these lift schemes by completing Polavaram right and left canals including distributives.

    Polavaram reservoir has only 75.2 tmcft at canal’s full supply level of 41.15 metres (135 ft) MSL out of gross storage of 194 tmcft. Even after building of the Polavaram reservoir to full capacity, 75.2 tmcft available water during the dry months is totally inadequate for the huge command area under its main canals. Thus Pattiseema and Purushothamapatnam lift schemes are useful to use the rest of live storage water available nearly 100 tmcft in the reservoir above the barrage gates crest level at 24.5 metres (80 ft) MSL. Pattiseema and Purushothamapatnam lift schemes are very essential initial and permanent components of total Polavaram project to harness Godavari water even before the full construction of Polavaram barrage. GoAP is aiming to complete the barrage up to 80 ft level by the end of calendar year 2018 without fixing the crest gates due to massive cost of land acquisition and rehabilitation costs. The dead storage water of 20 tmcft is not of any use.

    The total cost of the project will touch one trillion INR against the present estimate of 0.3 trillion INR when 2013 land acquisition act is made applicable for land acquisition of submerged area and rehabilitation of displaced people. For the already acquired land also, it is to be paid as per 2013 land acquisition act . Thus total cost of rehabilitation and land acquisition cost for the Polavaram project will touch 70% of the total executed cost of one trillion INR. In a set up prevailing, where government funds are mainly spending on social welfare activities (building roads, education, health, old age security, etc) , it is not required to account rehabilitation and land acquisition cost in total cost of a irrigation project which is going to give food security to the nation for at least a century..

    It is an unexpected boon to the Polavaram reservoir effected people and not a curse. They (including tribals) are not so powerless to be denied all types of compensation as permitted by law. It is not wise to oppose every aspect of Polavaram project and NGOs need to work for the project effected people to get their legal share out of the project cost for compensating their lands and for better livelihood. They can also expose the corrupt practices in the project. execution.

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    • Sir, I have generally found most of your responses very useful, educative and illuminating. Not this one. If Just rehabilitation was the intention, let them show it is feasible to do that by rehabilitating the already displaced by past projects.

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  2. My intention is to say not to link the Pattiseema and Purushothamapatnam lift schemes with Polavaram project. Their utility would enhance with Polavaram dam but they can also work independently for at least four months duration in a year without Polavaram project.

    An alternative to land acquisition, land owners may give land on long lease (90 years) to project company with yearly compensation coupled with escalation based on consumer price index. They can also cultivate the reservoir bed lands (one crop) when water recedes for five months duration in a year with irrigation water from the dead storage. They can have fishing rights also on their lands with leasing right . They can also have right to grow flooded forests/plantations on the water submerged lands (up to 5 meters water depth) for more productivity. (refer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainwater_harvesting for more data)

    I do not know much about the prevailing situation in rest of India but no body is hell bent in AP state to cheat the land oustees violating prevailing laws and also courts would not permit the reservoir filling / crest gates closing till most of the effected people are compensated. Already, two years back completed Pulichintala project, is not impounding water to its full storage though flood water was available due to delay in paying compensation to the effected people. Nagarjunasagar tail pond though it is completed one year back is also not being filled up for not paying compensation for the effected people.

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