Power-starved Andhra Pradesh’s big lift irrigation schemes hinge on availability of electricity
When completed, it will be India’s biggest lift irrigation project. Nineteen mammoth lifts will pull water from the Pranahita and Godavari rivers; there will be seven large reservoirs, big pumping stations, canals and tunnels spanning 1,060 km. The Rs.38,500-crore B R Ambedkar Pranahita-Chevella Sujala Sravanti project in Andhra Pradesh’s Adilabad district will irrigate 687,966 hectares in the parched northern districts of Telangana region. Besides, it will provide drinking water to the twin cities Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The state government has already spent Rs.3,000 crore on the project, aimed to be ready by 2018. The plan is grand, but there is a catch.
The project will lift 180 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) water up to 500 metres for 90 days, the monsoon crop period, from July to October. This will require 3,466 MW power, almost one-third of the current total installed power generation capacity of the state—16,300 MW. For a state grappling with acute power crisis, the plan seems far-fetched.
The project is just one of the 31 lift irrigation schemes the state government has taken up as part of Jalaya gnam. The much-hyped irrigation programme, launched in 2005, was highlighted as a permanent solution to water woes of farmers in the Rayalseema and Telangana regions. Deadline for all the lift irrigation schemes under Jalayagnam is 2018. All the schemes will together require 8,746 MW. Power demand in the state is 13,000-14,000 MW. But the government is able to generate only 9,000 MW. This means, the state is currently short of 3,000-4,000 MW, almost what Pranahita-Chevella needs.
The irrigation department is confident that there will be enough electricity for the project by 2018. Department officials say the state’s power generation capacity will increase by then. Earlier, the Public Auditor General had observed that the lift irrigation schemes would be unviable because of their high power requirement. In reply, the department highlighted letters sent by the Andhra Pradesh Power Transmission Corporation promising to make power available for the schemes.
As per the plans of Andhra Power Generation Corporation (APGENCO), by 2018 the state will add 7,000 MW to its thermal power capacity and achieve a total installed generation capacity of 23,300 MW. “Even then the actual generation will be only around 16,500 MW,” says K Raghu, energy analyst with APGENCO. This apart, power demand increases by about 1,200 MW every year. So within the next five years, power demand will be about 20,000 MW. Adding the 8,746 MW needed for
lift irrigation schemes, the total demand will be about 29,000 MW. “There will be great shortage,” Raghu says.
Burden of bills
If the state government does manage the electricity, the schemes will be burdened by huge bills. The four state-owned power distribution companies have proposed to increase the unit cost for agriculture and irrigation from Rs.3.12 to Rs.5.73 in 2013-14. At this rate, the cost of 21,603 million units, needed for the 31 lift irrigation schemes, will be Rs.12,372 crore. The average charge for an acre (0.4 hectare) will be Rs.19,000. For mega projects like Pranahita, even at the proposed rate, the charge goes up to Rs.26,000 an acre. Allocation in the last three fiscals has been around Rs.15,000 crore. Despite the irrigation department’s request for Rs.39,000 crore for 2013-14, only Rs.13,800 crore was granted.
B Anatharamuloo, adviser to the state government on irrigation projects in Telanagana, says, “Unless the government makes concrete plans to address shortage and rising cost of power, big lift irrigation schemes included in Jalayaganam will remain only on paper.