Suit against dam

By Ashutosh Mishra
Published: Tuesday 31 March 2009

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Polavaram hydropower project will flood Orissa's tribal villages

THE Orissa government has appealed to the Supreme Court to suspend work on the Indira Sagar (Polavaram) multi-purpose project on river Godavari. The irrigation-cum-hydroelectric project, with a dam at Polavaram village in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, threatens to flood several tribal villages in Malkangiri district in neighbouring Orissa.

Two tributaries of the Godavari, Sabari and Sileru, flow through this district. The dam, once built, would flood the villages when water is let out from the reservoir.

The injunction suit was filed in the apex court following the technical clearance given to the Andhra Pradesh government by the central water commission (cwc) on January 20.

The Orissa government has been protesting against the project since 2005 when the Union ministry of environment and forests (moef) cleared the Rs 10,150 crore project. "We want the project to be stopped immediately as it is hurting our interests. It has to be redesigned," said C V Prasad, chief engineer, project planning, with the state water resources department.

He said Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik had written several letters to prime minister Manmohan Singh, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and the ministry of water resources highlighting the problems the dam would create. "Still we were not invited to the cwc meeting on January 20 when the project was cleared. Orissa happens to be a co-basin state and should have been given a hearing," said Prasad.

About 1,000 families in Mottu block of Malkangiri would be displaced once the project is completed. People of the Koya tribe, known for their unique culture, live in most of these villages.

The Andhra Pradesh government had offered to build embankments on the Sabari and the Sileru to prevent flooding. "The cwc has accepted this proposal but we are against it. Bund s are not a permanent solution," said Prasad. He added that the Andhra government is going ahead with the original design and not the modified design for water spillway approved by the cwc in 2006.

Former Malkangiri mla, Arabinda Dhali, said the villages that would be affected by the dam are in a scheduled area. "People living there have started organizing demonstrations," he said.

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