Andhra CM Naidu says Polavaram Project is a mess, may take 4 years to complete

Chandrababu Naidu said when he stepped down as CM in 2019, 72% of the Polavaram Project was completed, and could have been finished in 2020.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Jun 17, 2024 | 8:59 PM Updated Jun 17, 2024 | 8:59 PM

File photo of Chandrababu Naidu at the Polavaram project site in 2023.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Monday, 17 June, said that it might take up to four years to complete the Polavaram Project as the damage it had suffered during the YSRCP regime was very extensive.

He was speaking to reporters at the project site after making his maiden inspection since taking over as the chief minister of the state for the fourth time.

Naidu said that when he stepped down as the chief minister in 2019, as much as 72 percent of the project was completed.

Had TDP returned to power in 2019, the project would have been completed as early as 2020, he claimed.

Related: Union govt will ‘definitely’ support Polavaram, says Purandeswari

‘A mess’

Naidu said on the occasion that at present, the project — which was very close to his heart — looked as though it was no one’s baby.

He added that it would take time to understand the extent of damage done to it and find out ways to put it back on rails — even for him, who knew the Polavaram Project backwards.

He said: “The project has become a case study on what kind of curse one who is not fit to be even in public life could turn into if they became the chief minister of the state.”

He added: “The project is now a mess. A lot of money has to be spent to get the project going.”

He also said: “I am yet to get to the finer details of the project, but from the looks of it, it requires more than ₹2,000 crore just to get the repairs done. I am yet to get to the bottom of the damage done to the project.”

Naidu added that according to officials, it might take up to four years for its completion if everything went as per calculations.

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The damage

The chief minister said that the diaphragm wall of the project had suffered damage at four places when there were floods to the Godavari River in 2019-20.

As much as 35 percent of the diaphragm wall was washed away, he added.

If another diaphragm wall has to be constructed, it might cost ₹447 that too only to repair the damaged portion. If a full-fledged wall has to be constructed, it might cost ₹900 crore.

Then the coffer dams also had to be built as during the flooding, the currents of water had washed out most of the soil underneath them.

The chief minister also said that the hard work he had put in and the long days he spent on reviewing the progress of the project had down the drain.

“In 2014, even before the appointed day of 2 June for the bifurcation of the state arrived, I brought tremendous pressure on the Centre to transfer seven mandals in the Khammam district to Andhra Pradesh so that there would be no problem from Telangana for the construction of the Polavaram Project,” said Naidu.

“I even vowed not to take the oath of office and secrecy as the chief minister until the centre transferred the mandals,” he added.

The NDA government, which came to power at the Centre in 2014, heeded his request and had an ordinance issued by the President for the transfer of the mandals even before the first session of Parliament began in 2014.

“It does not happen under normal circumstances, but the BJP dispensation had the ordinance issued, which was later passed in the Parliament, because of my pressure,” he claimed.

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Blame on YSRCP

Naidu said ever since he began the project, he faced several challenges one after the other. As he was keen on completing the project, he kept at it despite the odds.

“I visited the project 30 times between 2014 and 2019 and held more than 100 reviews to see that it would be in place and on time,” he said.

“The project was on the cusp of being completed when the YSRCP came to power. Had we come to power in 2019, we would have would have completed the project by 2020,” he added.

“Now I am not in a position to say when it will be in place as I am yet to study the present stage of the project in depth. Anyway, we cannot do anything till November-December as it is monsoon time,” said the chief minister.

Naidu said that after the YSRCP came to power, the new government changed the execution agency in the name of reverse-tendering, which was the beginning of not only the stalling of the ongoing project works but also letting whatever work that the TDP government had done go to waste.

After the change of the contracting agency, the YSRCP government changed all the officials who were hitherto in charge of the project.

No steps were taken to protect the diaphragm wall that his government had put in place which led to its damage, he said.

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Naidu still keen on Polavaram

Naidu recalled his government designing the project to impound 194 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water, which would work out to 320 tmcft in times of flood as the floodwater could be let into the canals.

He said the project had a spillway that would allow a discharge of 15 lakh cusecs in case the flood’s intensity was too severe.

The chief minister said that it was because of the YSRCP dispensation that crores of pubic money had gone down the drain.

Had the project work been taken up immediately after YSRCP came to power, it would have been of use to the state.

But now, the construction cost had gone up, said Naidu, recalling that he demanded that the execution agency implementing the project not be changed as it would make it difficult for the government to fix accountability if the project was delayed.

However, the YSRCP government changed the implementing agency nonetheless, he said.

The chief minister also said that he was very keen on Polavaram as it would provide irrigation to several districts in Andhra and allow more Krishna waters into the Rayalaseema region.

“In future, there is always the possibility of diverting Godavari waters directly to Rayalaseema,” he said.

(Edited by Arkadev Ghoshal)

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