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Half-baked mega project

Author(s): M Suchitra
Apr 15, 2013 | From the print edition

Power-starved Andhra Pradesh’s big lift irrigation schemes hinge on availability of electricity

graphWhen 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.



The writers from Down To Earth write articles on Andhra Pradesh irrigation projects without understanding the real picture. The first Prime Minister of India, Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru said “Dams are modern temples”. In the 7th 5-year plan under the World Bank dictums introduced “Watershed Development Programme” with a limit of 750 mm rainfall since 1982. This approach was adopted as a national strategy for integrated and comprehensive development of rainfed areas. In the 8th plan the rainfall limit was removed. However, the watersheds did not rescue the farmers of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh during low rainfall years. Thousands of crores were spent on this programme without any success.

In Andhra Pradesh with Srisailem and Nagarjunasagar projects along with two earlier barrages and few other dams in Telangana helped the people. AP turned in to a rice bowl. However, the benefits went to only 20% of farming community. With the tanks & well irrigation [with the Hydropower] another 20% people got benefitted. That means still 60% of the people are at the mercy of Rain God only.

To reduce this disparity between irrigated farmers and rainfed farmers, Dr. Y. S. Rajashekara Reddy initiated projects under Jalayagnam. Most of these projects were proposed by earlier Chief Ministers but not dared to touch them. Here the major problem with Godavari water is it has to be lifted unlike Krishna water. Dr. Y. S. Rajashekara Reddy after becoming the Chief Minister as promised he provided free power to agriculture for 7 hours. Even with full opposition from political parties he went ahead with all the 80 projects. However, with his death as usual the leaders who wanted amass wealth sidelined the irrigation projects and quarreling for contracts.

In the case of power sector: Hydro power from 19 projects is 3829.4 MW and of which Srisailem 1670 MW, Nagarjunasagar 965 MW and the rest 17 projects 1194.4 MW; Coal based 9482.5 MW of which APGenco 5092.5 MW and the rest NTPC; gas based 2761.33 MW – mainly from private. As on 31.7.2012 APGenco power is 8924.9 MW. This year in all the three the target was not achieved. Government knew the situation year back but failed to correct it. Not able to procure coal or gas. In the case of Hydro power, the government played mischief in the production of power and release of water to irrigation and thus lead to reduced power production. Present CM followed TDP CM and neglected Dr. YSR’s initiatives in all sectors and burdening people but very quick in raising salaries of MLAs, Ministers, government employees and thus one third of budget is going to these salaries only. This is helpful to get big pocket of pension and to convert black money to white.

Here one important thing needs to be mentioned about the power scenario during TDP regime with N. Chandrababu Naiudu as Chief Minister. By the time he took over the CM chair AP was blessed with Hydro power and thermal power. Electricity Act was come in to force in 2001. With the World Bank advice he started power sector reforms from vertical structure to horizontal structure. Technical persons were sidelined and bureaucrats were brought in as heads to serve the vested interests. Thus salaries and other perks and separate offices/staff and pilferage count accounted under losses. In the former one head and in the later several heads and several offices in which what left hand is doing is not known to right hand and vice versa. This lead large scale pilferage and power losses unaccounted.

Chandrababu Naidu released a white paper on power. In this it was clearly shown that power sector was in profit mode since 1980-81 to 1993-94 and there onwards, during his regime, the power sector was running under losses due to reforms. As a result in 8 years of his rule he raised power tariffs in 8 times.

We found that some of the losses were covered under agriculture sector – industry, other commercial sectors illegal uses. I was the convener of the Agriculture group under energy conservation mission formed under Institute of Engineers (India) AP State Centre. I raised the issue of pilferage and showing under agriculture sector at a meeting at Osmania University on Electricity Act discussion in which former and current Electricity department top bosses were present. They openly agreed on the pilferage. Later, APTransco asked the productivity council to do survey under the four Discom zones. They found that the power to agriculture sector was given only 5 hours and not 9 hours on which power consumption was deduced by the government.

But, APTransco did not changed the accounting later also – pilferage is included under agriculture sector. Also, 30% of the motors are out of order due to several reasons. Though later they reduced power from 9 to 7 hours in 2003-4 officially, they used to issue secret note saying so many hours single phase and so many hours three phases. I myself suffered with this – I used to produce seed to AP Seeds a government seed company lost seed and dried up the horticulture farm. Then I met the all top officials including the Power Minister but nothing happened.

Opposition parties protested in that police fire killed several people. During that time I wrote several articles on power related issues, agriculture issues, irrigation issues in several Telugu dailies.

The other major blunder is starting of private power plants with gas mode by his government. He encouraged RIL to take away gas from KG basin but failed to get gas to the AP power plants. As a result AP government paid hundreds of crores of rupees to the private power companies as compensation. When Dr. Y. S. Rajashekara Reddy took over as CM he negotiated with these companies and stopped paying that and thus bridged the losses. Also, he advised the government to take part in Tenders in KG basin gas and he was successful that lead his accidental accident death. Dr. Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy government took initiative to rectify the losses due to Pilferages and never raised the power charges but gave 7-hours free power to farmers until his death without burdening people.

Government of India put 9% growth rate in power sector. In the past 5 years upto 2011 MoEF granted EC for 210,000 MW which is 60,000 MW in excess. In the same period all along AP Coast 33 power plants were planned which are at several stages with a capacity 30,000 MW. Also through Polavaram 960 MW Hydropower was planned. Under NAPCC government proposed energy saving, renewable energy use in industrial and domestic sectors. This will reduce the burden on power requirement. When Dr. Y. S. Rajashekara Reddy proposed Jalayagnam he kept these in mind. If he would have been there things would have been different. Unlike other states, in Andhra Pradesh political rivalry plays major role over the states interests. This is exactly what is happening now. Both TDP and ruling Cngress joined hands to blame Dr. Y. S. Rajashekara Reddy on all their mistakes and faulty governance as both these parties have more than 6 TV channels each – both CM & PCC chief have their own channels – to target Dr. Y. S. Rajashekara Reddy and his family. See Maharashtra, thermal power plants are using water meant for irrigation but this is not so in the case of Dr. Y. S. Rajashekara Reddy plan. They get water from sea. After his death the present government is run by Gulabi Nabee Azad from Delhi. Mostly interested to collect and transfer. Thus in four years four times raised current changes to the tune of around 35,000 crores this year itself. The money meant for free power comes from budget and not from power charges. This government is not giving power as stipulated in the budget proposal but burdening the people with additional charges. In this pilferage is also added and burdened common man and industry and at the same time farmers by not giving power for 7 hours. The Present government is running in the same mode of Chandrababu Naiudu.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

3 April 2013
Posted by
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

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