Polavaram project hangs fire as Centre frowns over execution

Vijayawada, Aug 26: Dark clouds loom over the Polavaram multi-purpose irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh after a team of an experts of the Union Water Resources Ministry came out with a damning report on the way the project is being executed by the state government.

The report, which is currently under the perusal of the Prime Minister's Office, could well determine the fate of the project even as Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is desperate to complete it ahead of the next election due in mid-2019.

Andhra Pradesh

Simply put, the report says the project execution (by the state government) is not "sound and safe" under any parameters. Polavaram, which the AP government claims is the "lifeline of the state", has been declared as a national project under the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014.

"The Central government shall execute the project and obtain all requisite clearances, including forests, environmental and rehabilitation and resettlement. The Union should take under its control the regulation and development of Polavaram," the Act says.

Accordingly, the Centre constituted the Polavaram Project Authority (PPA) for the purpose. The state government, however, has not handed over the project to the PPA and has been going ahead with the execution for the last two years.

Chandrababu had in the past said a couple of times that he was "ready to handover" Polavaram to the Centre only if it promised to complete it by 2018. But he did not actually make any moves in this regard.

The state government has been repeatedly requesting the Centre to "reimburse" Rs 1700 crore spent on Polavaram works in the last two years but no payment was forthcoming because of the adverse findings by the experts team, informed sources said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to have taken a serious view of the glaring lapses in the project execution, particularly the omissions of the contractor Transtroy India, owned by a Telugu Desam Party MP.

Following his visit to the project site in April, Special Secretary in the Union Water Resources Ministry and CEO of Polavaram Project Authority Amarjit Singh appointed an expert team comprising "very eminent professionals", including a former chairman of Central Water Commission (CWC), to have a "holistic assessment of the gaps in the project implementation".


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