NEW DELHI: The Environment Ministry on Tuesday defended its decision to allow Andhra Pradesh to resume Polavaram project construction work, saying that permission had been granted on condition of ‘no water flow’ in the dam till disputes with Odisha and Chhattisgarh were settled.
It has lifted the ‘stop work’ order, issued in 2009. Many villages in Odisha and Chhattisgarh are facing inundation due to the dam. Andhra Pradesh has already spent Rs 10,000 crore on construction of the project on river Godavari.
According to the MoEF, environment clearance was granted to the project in 2005 and has never been cancelled. Being a hydro project, it was referred to the Central Water Commission (CWC) for consideration, which informed the ministry of the need to conduct public hearings for approving protective embankments in the states. The project was put on hold in 2009, pending public hearings for protective embankments.
“Since then, several communications have been sent to chief secretaries of both the states to conduct public hearings but the states have not done so citing law and order problem that could arise because of it,” said sources in the ministry.
The ministry said it was not for the first time that work order had been given to Andhra Pradesh. It was given for six months each in 2013 and 2014 too.
“In case public hearings don’t happen, we will not allow full reservoir level (FRL) so that no inundation happens in Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Only after public hearings will the FRL limit be achieved,” said the sources.
The ministry said the apex court had given no order to stop work on the project though both the states have approached it. Even a team constituted by the court to study the project gave a report in favour of going ahead with construction. The case is still pending in the Supreme Court.
Conceived in 1940s, the irrigation project is likely to irrigate over seven lakh acres in Andhra Pradesh and produce 960 MW of hydel energy. The project is estimated to cost Rs 20,000 crore.
However, Odisha, Telangana and Chhattisgarh have raised serious objections to the project. Odisha Government is opposed to the project on the ground it would see massive displacement of tribals and cause irreparable damage to many villages.