Polavaram — displaced and nowhere to go: Ineligible for rehabilitation, many in a fix

Down To Earth | Shagun | 15 Dec, 2021

Several disqualified from rehabilitation process on absurd grounds, found DTE

Those displaced by the Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh have found themselves in the middle of yet another quandary: Scores of them are ineligible for rehabilitation by the state government.

The Polavaram irrigation project, set to be operationalised by April 2022, will displace the highest number of people in India’s history of such projects: 106,006 families across 222 villages (total 373 habitations) in Andhra Pradesh, upon completion.

Many who haven’t been given a house or compensation yet have been living in the hope of a promised rehabilitation. But those who have been disqualified from the rehabilitation process on absurd grounds after being displaced find themselves at the bottom rung of the ladder.

Take the case of K Ramanagara, a washerwoman from the now submerged Ramanayyapeta village. She is not eligible for the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) package — she and her family weren’t present in the village on the day of the survey for relocation by the government in 2009.

During that time, her now handicapped husband was bitten by a snake while working in fields and the family had to temporarily shift to Rajahmundry for his treatment.

“The government surveyed the village for relocation and missed my name. I have all documents to prove my residence. I visited the authorities here several times but they do not pay heed to my requests,” she said.

She is now living in a rented house in Krishnunipalem, some 35 km from her village, where she pays Rs 2,000 a month. She uses Rs 3,000 disability pension her husband gets to pay for it.

There is not much laundry work in the colony the family has shifted to. So, Ramanagara wants to work as agricultural labourer. But after displacement and subsequent shifting, there is surplus labour in the area and subsequently, not enough jobs.

Dasara Venkatesh, 45, has stayed all his life in Chinaramayapeta village. But he was told he was ineligible for compensation after the “government lost his identity cards and papers”.

The papers were later found but he is still struggling to get his name included in the list of people eligible for compensation.

Sidda Sachinarayan, a journalist and among the displaced, lives in the same colony as Venkatesh. He said the government left people out very randomly from the compensation lists.

“Initially, when the decision of relocation was taken, the government depended on Socio-Economic and Caste census data. But later, they conducted surveys at village level and began to disqualify people on different grounds,” he said.

Gangadhar Rao, a fisherman, didn’t have a ration card of the village he lived in till May 2021. He had migrated to Devipatnam in 2004 because fishing opportunities were better.

He and his family have now been living in a fishing boat along with four other families, who are awaiting construction of their houses in an R&R colony, for about seven months now.

The other families have at least got the compensation money. Till May 2021, his three kids (in grades III, V and VI) went to the now-submerged school building. They later dropped out.

Ravi Rebbapragada, executive director, Samata, which has been working with the displaced population in East and West Godavari districts, said the government should conduct a reassessment of all disqualified people.

“This is an aberration. If even one per cent people are left out or disqualified, it is unjust because they have really sacrificed their land for everybody,” he said.

The government not compensating for ‘banjar land’ is another battle that the displaced population is fighting.

Banjar land is unregistered government land but cultivated by villagers, mostly tribals, for many years now. The R&R package includes compensating people for their agricultural land; banjar land has not been surveyed or included in the package.

“People have been cultivating banjar lands for 40 years or so. We have demanded providing pattas (a land deed) of such land to the government authorities. The Polavaram Project Authority also acknowledged it but things have not moved,” said S Jhansi Lakshmi, Andhra Pradesh state president of Rythu Kuli Sangha, a non-profit working for the displaced.

We don’t how much of this land exists in the state because it’s not registered, she added. There is no data or record of such land which was the livelihood for many people in the submerged villages.

K Abhay Reddy (45), his wife and three children had been dependent on two acres of such land for their livelihood since 2006. “Other families can at least claim compensation. We can’t even do that because we don’t have the papers. The government lies. Before shifting to the colony, the officers made promises that we will get better work but that is not the case here.”

Rebbapragada said the authorities have been disqualifying people occupying banjar land on technical grounds, but it is unjust in terms of rehabilitation being an inclusive process.

“The land is technically owned by the government and people cultivating on it are not entitled to compensation, but when the Polavaram Authority is genuine about rehabilitating every person then it should think about giving some compensation on account of banjar land, if not giving them an equivalent piece of land,” he said.

Another problem — of cut-off date — was also found across all colonies. According to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, those aged 18 years were eligible for compensation at the time of the survey. However, by the time the process started, a significant number of new youth population had become eligible for compensation.

“This issue, coupled with not providing R&R package to married women above 18 years, is an exclusionary process,” said Rebbapragada.

Polavaram Project gets one third of irrigation outlay

The New Indian Express | May 21, 2021

In 2020-21, the budge estimate was Rs 4,804 crore and the revised estimate at end of the fiscal stood at Rs 1,328 crore.

VIJAYAWADA: With focus on completion of Polavaram Irrigation Project (PIP) and other projects under ‘Jalayagnam’, the state government has earmarked Rs 13,237.78 crore for the water resources department in the budget-2021-22 presented on Thursday. While the allocation is 12.1 per cent higher than last year, it remains to be seen how much would be actually utilised as 2020-21’s revised estimate showed utilisation of only Rs 5,238 crore out of Rs 11,805 crore.

In fact, the revised estimates of 2020-21, Rs 5,238 crore, are slightly lower than the 2019-20 account of Rs 5,335 crore as well.Like in FY 20-21, Polavaram project has been allotted over a third of the total outlay. About Rs 4,801 crore has been allocated for the national project, especially for land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement (LARR) components. In 2020-21, the budge estimate was Rs 4,804 crore and the revised estimate at end of the fiscal stood at Rs 1,328 crore.

Project works in Ongole irrigation circle including Rallapadu , Veligonda, Gundlakamma and others have been earmarked about Rs 1,685 crore, while those in Anantapur including Handri Neeva Sujala Sravanti, Tungabhadra Project High Level Canal stage and others were allocated Rs 1,042 crore.

The projects in Krishna Delta and Godavari delta systems, North coastal districts (Vamsadhara, Thotapalli and others), NTR Telugu Ganga, Kadapa (Rayalaseema Drought Mitigation Project), Kurnool district, and Tungabhadra board were allotted Rs 800 crore, Rs 752 crore, Rs 650 crore, Rs 502 crore, Rs 258 crore, and Rs 160 crore, respectively.

“The government has taken up 54 Jalayagnam projects out of which 14 have been completed. On completion of the remaining 40 projects, 27.62 lakh acres of new irrigation potential under major and medium irrigation will be created and 5.03 lakh acres of ayacut will be stabilised.

Through Jalayagnam, the government is committed to improve water availability for irrigation, thereby attaining sustainable development goal (SDG) 9 — build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation and SDG 2 — end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture,” Rajendranath Reddy said.

All projects to be completed in 2020-21

The finance minister revealed the progress made in various irrigation projects. BRR Vamsadhara project has achieved 86 per cent progress. Other major projects being implemented include interlinking of Vamsadhara and Nagavali rivers,Poola Subbaiah Veligonda Phase – I, , Owk right tunnel, HNSS. “Majority of works of these projects have been completed and the balance would be completed in 2021-22,” he averred.

Two firms bid for additional works of Polavaram Irrigation Project

The New Indian Express | May 19, 2021

The technical evaluation of the bids will be done on Wednesday, followed by commercial/financial evaluation on Wednesday before going for reverse tendering, the officials said.

VIJAYAWADA: Two firms have filed bids for the additional head works of Polavaram Irrigation Project (PIP) in the second call given by the water resources government earlier this month.

The technical evaluation of the bids will be done on Wednesday, followed by commercial/financial evaluation on Wednesday before going for reverse tendering, the officials said.

According to information, Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Ltd (MEIL), which is already executing the head works, is one of the two companies that filed the bids for the additional works.

“Two companies have submitted the bids before the deadline on Tuesday and we will evaluate them on Wednesday. The qualified bids will be considered for financial evaluation, followed by reverse auctioning, with qualified bidders, on Friday,” a senior official from the water resources department said. The estimated value of the works is Rs 683 crore.

For the record, the water resources department had invited tenders last month for the additional works, but later decided to re-invite the bids as the bids filed by two companies that participated in the process had issues. Subsequently, a second call was given and time was given till Tuesday to file the bids.

It is learnt that the department wanted to award works to the existing contractor on nomination basis to ensure momentum in the pace of works as change in an agency would again involve logistic management.

​However, the department sent the bids for judicial preview and floated the tender after the government decided to go for bidding.

The additional head works include investigation, survey, preparation of designs and construction of RCC diaphragm wall end cut-off for spill channel, vibro stone columns and others.

Reverse tendering

The technical evaluation of the bids will be done on Wednesday, followed by commercial evaluation on Wednesday before going for reverse tendering.

Polavaram backwaters has no impact on Telangana, AP govt. reiterates at PPA meeting

Hans News Service | May 07, 2021

The Andhra Pradesh state government has once again made it clear to the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) that the land in Telangana will not be flooded at all due to the backwater impact of the Polavaram project

The Andhra Pradesh state government has once again made it clear to the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) that the land in Telangana will not be flooded at all due to the backwater impact of the Polavaram project. It said that a joint survey has been conducted with Telangana Water Resources Department officials on the impact of the project backwater on the Kinnerasani and Murredu tributaries and details will be sent to the Central Water Commission (CWC) within 12 months. The government said that according to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Declaration-2006, Gram Sabhas should be held within 45 days of the issuance of the notification, stating that the Governments of Odisha and Chhattisgarh have not yet held Gram Sabhas in flood prone areas.

A letter was written to Union Forest and Environment Secretary Rameshwar Prasad Gupta on May 15 asking him to hold gram sabhas in those states with the regulatory authority as per EIA-2006 regulations. The government clarified that the construction work of the project is being carried out in accordance with the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Polavaram Project Authority Chairman Chandrasekhar Iyer on Thursday held a wide-ranging meeting with AP, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Odisha Water Resources Department officials, CWC and Union Forest Environment Department officials on a virtual basis on issues raised by the NGT in the wake of a petition filed alleging flooding of Telangana territory due to construction of Polavaram project. AP Water Resources Secretary J Shyamala Rao, ENC C Narayanareddy, CE Sudhakarbabu, Telangana ENC Muralidhar, CWC Hydrology Department CE C Lal and Central Forest Environment Department officials were present while officials from Odisha and Chhattisgarh were absent.

Telangana ENC Muralidhar said at the meeting that the Polavaram project is being constructed with an estimated flood flow of 50 lakh cusecs, which will cause landslides in Telangana. In this backdrop, AP ENC Narayana Reddy denied that it was an apocalypse and clarified that a maximum flood of 36 lakh cusecs was recorded on August 16, 1986 in the history of Godavari river and the project was being constructed so that it could be easily released downstream even if 50 lakh cusecs was received for project safety as per CWC directives. He reminded that the CWC had conducted a backwater survey with the expectation of a flood of 36 lakh cusecs at Polavaram and was found that not a single acre in Telangana was submerged.

AP ENC further said they had conducted a survey with Telangana authorities on the impact of backwaters on the Murredu and Kinnerasani tributaries and that the details would be sent to the CWC within 12 months. The governments of Odisha and Chhattisgarh have said that the Polavaram backwaters will cause flooding in their states. AP Water Resources Secretary Shyamala Rao said that they are ready to build defensive walls to avoid that problem. Central Forest and Environment Ministry officials said they would take appropriate decision on the letter written by the AP officials to hold gram sabhas in the flood-affected areas. PPA Chairman Chandrasekhar Iyer said the project was targeted to be completed by April 2022 and rehabilitate the displaced.

960 mega watt Polavaram hydel power plant works gain steam

The Indian Express | May 02, 2021

The contracting agency and authorities have targeted to complete all the foundation works of the power project by May 31, according to the plan.

VIJAYAWADA:  With AP Power Generation Company (APGENCO) Ltd issuing the letter of award (LoA) for the execution of Polavaram hydroelectric power plant to Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Ltd (MEIL) a few weeks ago, the authorities have chalked out a strategy to complete the works of the 960-mega watt (MW) hydel power station in time. The contracting agency and authorities have targeted to complete all the foundation works of the power project by May 31, according to the plan.

Out of the 118.2 lakh cubic metres of foundation works, about 110 lakh cubic metres of excavation works have been completed and plans are afoot to conclude the remaining by the end of this month.  The hydel power plant, which will have 12 units of 80 MW each once complete, cleared all the legal tangles, which arose from the state government’s decision to cancel the awarded contract and go for re-tendering, in December, 2020. “After clearing the legal hurdles, the LOA of contract has been given to the contracting agency and formalities have been concluded earlier in April,” official sources said.

 As per the contract, the time for execution is 58 months. However, the officials and the contracting agency are planning to complete the works at the earliest and commission the project by 2024. While irrigation component’s head works are being taken up on priority, the power station’s works are also apace.  Meanwhile, APTRANSCO is also working on establishing necessary infrastructure for evacuation of power from the powerhouse.

For the record, the power station is coming up to the left of the spillway instead of the conventional design of being adjacent to the spillway, the officials added.  Coming up in about 107 acres of area in Angaluru village in Devipatnam mandal of East Godavari district, flood water will be released from a height of 27 metres, thereby generating hydel power.

Each unit of the powerhouse, which will have vertical generators and vertical Kaplan turbines, would have 331 cumecs of water discharge capacity and can produce 2,308.41 million units of power. A total of 24 gates with 12 intake gates, three stop log gates and 12 pressure tunnels are to be constructed.

The water reaches the power house via intake from the approach channel and following power generation it would flow back into River Godavari through the tail race channel. In the last week of December, 2020, BHEL bagged the electro mechanical works from MEIL. The scope of E and M works include manufacture and supply of hydro Kaplan turbines.

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