Polavaram Project

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For other uses, see Polavaram (disambiguation).
Polavaram Dam
Location Polavaram, West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, India
Coordinates 17°15′40″N 81°39′23″E / 17.26111°N 81.65639°E / 17.26111; 81.65639Coordinates: 17°15′40″N 81°39′23″E / 17.26111°N 81.65639°E / 17.26111; 81.65639
Construction began 2004
Opening date under construction.
Operator(s) Andhra Pradesh Irrigation Department
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Concrete spill way (754 m), Non over flow masonry dam (560 m) & Earth dam (1600 m)
Impounds Godavari River
Height 39.28 m (129 ft) up to top of earth dam above the lowest river bed.
Length 2,914 m (9,560 ft)
Spillway type Ogee section
Spillway capacity 3,600,000 cusecs at 140 ft msl
Creates Polavaram Reservoir
Total capacity 194 tmcft at FRL 150 ft msl
Catchment area 307,800 km2 (118,800 sq mi)
Surface area 600 km2 (230 sq mi)
Max. water depth 32.08 m at FRL 150 ft msl
Power station
Operator(s) APGENCO
Turbines 12 × 80MW Francis-type (left bank side)
Installed capacity 960 MW (under construction)

Polavaram Project is a multi-purpose irrigation project which has been accorded national project status by the central government.[1] This dam across the Godavari River is under construction located in West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh state and its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Orissa States also.[2]


National River-Linking Project, which works under the aegis of the Indian Ministry of Water Resources, was designed to overcome the deficit in water in the country. As a part of this plan, surplus water from the Himalayan rivers is to be transferred to the peninsular rivers of India. This exercise, with a combined network of 30 river-links and a total length of 14,900 kilometres (9,300 mi) at an estimated cost of US$120 billion (in 1999), would be the largest ever infrastructure project in the world.[3] In this project's case, the Godavari river basin[4] is considered as a surplus one, while the Krishna River basin is considered to be a deficit one.[5] As of 2008, 644 tmcft of underutilised water from Godavari River flowed into the Bay of Bengal.[6] Based on the estimated water requirements in 2025, the Study recommended that sizeable surplus water was to be transferred from the Godavari River basin to the Krishna River basin.[5]

In July 1941, the first conceptual proposal for the project came from the erstwhile Madras Presidency. Later Diwan Bahadur L. Venkata Krishna Iyer, then chief engineer in the Presidency's irrigation department, made the first survey of the project site and made a definitive proposal for a reservoir at Polavaram. Sri Iyer not only visioned cultivation of 350,000 acres (140,000 ha) over two crop seasons through this project, but also planned for a 40 megawatt hydroelectric plant within the project. The entire project was estimated to cost about INR65 million (US$1.0 million). The old final designs[7] of Polavaram dam was planned at full reservoir level (FRL) 208 ft MSL with 836 tmcft gross storage capacity and 150 MW hydroelectric plant. By 1946–47, the estimated cost rose to INR1.29 billion. It was christened as Ramapada Sagar Project since the backwaters of the reservoir would touch the Lord Rama temple at Bhadrachalam. In the old finalised project design by Dr. K.L. Rao, the right bank canal of Polavaram project was extended to south of Krishna River to serve irrigation needs in old Guntur district by envisaging aqueduct across the Krishna River.[8]

The project presently under construction is scaled down to FRL 150 ft MSL. The project cost estimate in 2004 stood at INR86.21 billion.[9]

In 1980, then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh T. Anjaiah laid the foundation stone for the project. However the project stayed idle until 2004 when the Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy-led government came to power.[10] In 2004, the Government of Andhra Pradesh sanctioned INR13.2 billion (US$210 million) for the project.[11] Soon after, tenders were issued for the commensurate worth of services for the right canal of the project.[12] For the left canal, another INR13.53 billion were sanctioned by the state government.[9]

Alternate site[edit]

The dam could not be taken up for construction during the last century on techno economical grounds. The proposed dam site at Polavaram is located where the river emerges from the last range of the Eastern Ghats into plains covered with deep alluvial sandy strata. At Polavaram, the river width is about 1500 m. In view of large depth of excavation which is more than 30 m deep, to reach hard rock at this dam site, the dam project was not found economical to take up. However a lucrative alternate site is feasible located in upstream of Polavaram site where the river passes through deep gorges of Papi hill range.[13] The width of river is about 300 m only in the rocky gorge stretch. Thirty years back, this alternative was found technologically challenging task to connect the reservoir with the irrigation canals via tunnels across the ghat area. Also costly underground hydro electric station is mandated compared to river bed based hydro electric station. When the project was actually taken up in the year 2004, the old finalised designs at Polavaram site are adopted without re-examining the latest cost of upstream alternate site in view of state of the art construction technology of tunnels and underground hydro electric station. The progress up to the year 2012 in construction of dam structures and the hydro electric station is almost nil.[14] The alternate site located in the gorge stretch is still worth of re-examination to reduce the ever increasing cost of Polavaran dam.

The spillway and non-overflow dam are founded on Khondalite bed rock in Polavaram Project.[13] Khondalites, which are feldspar-rich, often contain soft graphite, hard garnet, etc. in addition to other minerals. Khondalites are highly weathered and hence unsuitable at dam site.[15]

Technical details[edit]

The project reservoir has live storage 75.2 tmcft and gross storage 194 tmcft thereby enabling irrigation of 23,20,000 acre (including stabilisation of existing irrigated lands) in Krishna, West Godavari, East Godavari, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and Srikakulam districts of Andhra Pradesh.[9][16] The silt free dead storage water of nearly 90 tmcft up to spillway crest level 24.5 m MSL, can also be used in downstream lift irrigation projects (Pattiseema lift, etc) and Dowleswaram Barrage during the summer months.

The project would constitute an earth-cum-rock fill dam of 2,310 metres (7,580 ft) length, spillway of 907 metres (2,976 ft) with 44 vents to enable discharge of 3,600,000 cu ft/s (100,000 m3/s) of water. To its left, 12 water turbines, each having 80 megawatt capacity, were to be installed. The right canal connecting to Krishna River in the upstream of Prakasam Barrage (173 kilometres (107 mi) long) discharges 17,500 cu ft/s (500 m3/s) at head works and left canal (182 kilometres (113 mi) long) discharges 17,500 cu ft/s (500 m3/s) of water.[9]

Future potential[edit]

A barrage would be constructed on Krishna river located near 16°34′41″N 80°24′43″E / 16.57806°N 80.41194°E / 16.57806; 80.41194 in the upstream of Prakasam barrage with FRL at 24m MSL to receive Godavari water diverted from Polavaram dam. This barrage would also enable a new road / bridge link diverting south bound road traffic from Hyderabad side on NH9 to Guntur district without touching Vijayawada city

A low level lift canal from the Krishna river located near 16°42′50″N 80°08′24″E / 16.71389°N 80.14000°E / 16.71389; 80.14000 at 20 m MSL in the downstream of Pulichintala dam will be executed to feed Godavari water diverted from Polavaram Dam to some of the existing command area (situated below 60 m MSL) under Nagarjuna Sagar right bank canal to facilitate extension of Nagarjuna Sagar right bank canal connecting to Kandaleru feeder canal / Somasila reservoir for serving irrigation needs in Prakasam, Potti Sriramulu Nellore and Chittur districts including Chennai drinking water supply. A branch from this lift canal is also extended up to Pulichinthala dam (FRL 53.34 m MSL) to store Godavari water in Pulichintala reservoir during drought years and to irrigate low lands along Krishna river up to Pulichintala dam.

Another high level lift canal from above Krishna river location 16°42′50″N 80°08′24″E / 16.71389°N 80.14000°E / 16.71389; 80.14000 up to 90 m MSL would be constructed to join Nagarjuna Sagar tail pond (FRL 75 m MSL) irrigating lands en route along Krishna river in Guntur district. During drought years, the water transferred by this canal to Nagarjuna Sagar tail pond is further lifted to Nagarjuna Sagar and Srisailam reservoirs with the existing pumped storage hydro units for use in all the projects receiving water from these reservoirs. This high level lift canal is an alternative to Dummugudem to Sagar lift canal planned in Telangana region which would transfer Godavari river water from Dummugudem to Nagarjuna Sagar tail pond.

Another lift canal drawing water from the Polavaram right bank canal near 16°38′20″N 80°37′53″E / 16.63889°N 80.63139°E / 16.63889; 80.63139 at 30 m MSL would be constructed by pumping water to 70 m MSL to irrigate mid lands in Krishna district up to Pulichintala dam. All these pumping stations can be envisaged with high level ponds to incorporate peaking electricity generation capability to achieve multi purpose benefits. Ultimately the Polavaram right bank flood flow canal would be constructed to augment water transfer for meeting shortages in the Krishna river basin and the needed environmental flows downstream of Prakasam barrage. Refer to Google Earth data for more geographical information.

A 25 MW hydropower station can be established utilising Polavaram right bank canal water near Vijayawada. Refer Talk Page

A lift canal starting at 175m MSL receiving water from Polavaram reservoir, would irrigate most of the high lands in West Godavari and Krishna districts. This canal originating from a new balancing reservoir located near 17°14′43″N 81°27′57″E / 17.24528°N 81.46583°E / 17.24528; 81.46583 in Eastern Ghats area, will be connected to the Polavaram reservoir with a fore shore pump house to lift the water by 150 meters to feed in to a Fifteen (15) km long tunnel across the Eastern Ghats. The balancing reservoir would also serve as the upper pond for using the pumping station as peaking hydro power station.

Off shore fresh water reservoir

An off shore fresh water storage reservoir of capacity 250 Tmcft could be constructed along the sea coast of Chirala to store the Krishna river flood waters and the Godavari water transferred to Krishna river for creating additional irrigated area in Prakasam and Potti Sriramulu Nellore districts. This project is similar to Kalpasar Project to store Narmada River water in Gulf of Khambhat sea.

Fresh water reservoirs can be established in the shallow sea area by constructing sea dikes / bunds/ Causeway up to the depth of 12 meters from the coast line. Water can be pumped from this artificial sweet water lagoon throughout the year for meeting agriculture, etc. needs. Also these deep sea facing dikes can be used as sea ports for large ships and top surface as coastal road & rail routs. The proposed dikes would be similar to the land reclamation of North Sea area called Delta Works in Netherlands.

The sea area up to 12 meters depth adjacent to coast line between the locations (near 15°46′31″N 80°48′45″E / 15.77528°N 80.81250°E / 15.77528; 80.81250) where southern branch of the Krishna river is joining the sea and the mouth of the Gundlakamma River (near 15°33′23″N 80°13′37″E / 15.55639°N 80.22694°E / 15.55639; 80.22694), is highly suitable for creating the off shore fresh water reservoir. The width of the sea up to 12 m depth is nearly 17 km wide and the required length of the sea dikes is nearly 70 km. The area of the off shore reservoir would be nearly 1200 km2. A barrage would be constructed across the Krishna river (near 16°04′41″N 80°52′49″E / 16.07806°N 80.88028°E / 16.07806; 80.88028) near Mopidevi town. A flood canal (25 km long) from this barrage would feed Krishna river water to the off shore water reservoir. Later, a flood canal from Dowleswaram Barrage would also connect by gravity to this proposed barrage to feed Godavari water to the off shore fresh water reservoir. The off shore dike up to 8 m msl high, would also reduce drastically the cyclone damage and flooding in Chirala, Bapatla and Nizampatnam coastal areas. It would also greatly improve the irrigated coastal lands drainage in Guntur and Prakasam districts. The sea dike can also serve as an access way to a major deep sea port which can be located on the deep sea side of the 70 km long dike.

Vast lands in coastal districts of Prakasam and Nellore, are drought prone and do not have adequate water sources for irrigating the coastal dry lands.[17] Water from this off shore fresh water reservoir would be pumped uplands to Obachettapalem water tank (near 15°37′37″N 79°48′47″E / 15.62694°N 79.81306°E / 15.62694; 79.81306) which is at 85 m msl. From this water tank, dry lands in Prakasam and Nellore districts up to Pulicat lake can be brought under irrigation by gravity canals. The total cost would be less than Rs 200 billions which is nearly Rs 1,00,000 per acre of irrigated land.


The proposed project would displace 276 villages and 44,574 families spread across newly formed state of Telangana (carved out of erstwhile Andhra Pradesh) and the residual Andhra Pradesh states. Tribals constitute 50% of such a displaced population.[18] Human rights activists came out against the project because of these reasons. In addition, one activist pointed out that this interlinking of the rivers will harm the interests of the region in the state.[19] Environmental activist Medha Patkar said that the project not only will displace several thousands of families, it will also submerge several archaeological sites, coal deposits, a wildlife sanctuary and several hectares of farm land.[20]

Sixty-four years after the initial conception of the project, the Government of Andhra Pradesh secured the environmental clearance from the central agency in 2005. This clearance was obtained after the state government prepared a INR4,500 crore forest management plan and rehabilitation and resettlement proposal covering 59,756 hectares that were being lost under the project. In addition, INR40,000 was to be allotted for each dwelling to be constructed for the displaced as against INR25,000 provided by other states.[21] Despite this clearance, the project faced political roadblocks. The Communist Party of India (M) and Telangana Rashtra Samithi were troubled with the issue of submerging agricultural lands by the project.[22][23]

Meanwhile, work on the project began in April 2006 and was expected to be completed by February 2007.[24] After 30% work of excavation work on the canals and 15% of the spillway works had been completed, the work was halted in May 2006 to seek clearance from the Ministry of Forests and Environment.[25]

The neighbouring state of Orissa also expressed its concern on the submerging of its land and decided to study this together with the officials from Andhra Pradesh.[26] In response, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Late Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy clarified that neither Orissa nor Chhattisgarh would be affected by the construction.[27] The problem continued until 2010, when Chief Minister of Orissa Naveen Patnaik remained steadfast in his demand for compensation and rehabilitation of tribals of his state who would be displaced due to the submerging of their land.[28]

Orissa and Chhattisgarh have filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Project which submerges large areas of its state and allege that Andhra Pradesh of going ahead with the project without the necessary permissions from CWC and Environment Ministry. The states also allege that public hearing in the effected areas for not held.

Telangana Rashtra Samithi which formed the new Government in Telangana on 2 June 2014 has given a bandh call on 29 May 2014 protesting against the ordinance promulgated by the President. Later, the ordinance merging the affected villages belonging to Telangana State in Andhra Pradesh state was accepted by the Parliament also thereby bringing legitimacy to the project.[29] When completed, this will be the first river merge multipurpose project in India.[30]

Interstate river water disputes[edit]

Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh entered into agreement (clause vi of final order, page 80 of original GWDT) which were made part of Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal (GWDT) award.[31] The agreement allows Andhra Pradesh to construct the Polavaram reservoir with full reservoir level (FRL) at 150 feet above the mean sea level (MSL). Orissa approached Supreme Court against the design discharge capacity of the Polavaram dam spill way stating that it should be designed for five million cusecs (cubic feet per second) which is the estimated probable maximum flood (PMF) once in 1000 years duration. Orissa argues that otherwise there would be additional submergence above 150 ft MSL in its territory during peak floods. The recorded maximum flood is 3.0 million cusecs in the year 1986 during last 115 years.[8][32]

The projected back water level build up at Konta due to PMF in Godavari river after construction of Polavaram project with designed maximum water level (measured at dam point) shall be cross checked with the level that can occur at Konta in Sabari basin from the PMF generated in the upstream of Konta when the downstream main Godavari is not under spate. Then only enhanced submergence during the PMF of Godavari river in Orissa and Chatisgarh states can be assessed due to Polavaram dam construction.

The location of Polavaram dam is in the plain area at approximately 10 km downstream from the 50 km long narrow gorge in the Papi Hills. It is also to be ascertained whether the higher back water level during the PMF in Godavari river is solely due to the presence of long narrow gorge which is acting as a natural dam / barrier or further enhanced by the presence of downstream Polavaram barrage.

It is purely an academic interest showing concern for the few thousand hectares of farm/forest land submerged by the back water level build up once in five hundred or thousand years without showing concern for the thousands of square kilometres land submerged in the area downstream of the dam with a river flood of magnitude five million cusecs.

Thirty two years have passed after GWDT award in 1980, Maharashtra, Orissa and Chhattisgarh have not made serious efforts to harness the major Godavari tributaries such as Sabari River, Indravati River and Pranahita River to utilise the allocated share of Godavari waters. This underutilisation of water is the main reason for the very high flood flows at Polavaram dam site. Vast area in excess of 10,000 square km up to sea are frequently flooded (at least once in a decade) by Godavari floods in Andhra Pradesh by the flood waters originated in Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Orissa and Chhattisgarh states. The land submergence due to Polavaram dam in Orissa and Chhattisgarh states is fraction of Andhra Pradesh area which is affected by the floods in Godavari River. During the years from 1953 to 2011, Andhra Pradesh suffered nearly 558 billion rupees which is 26% of total flood damage in India.[33] It is justified to raise the FRL of Polavaram dam further on this ground alone. One single criterion shall be applied by the tribunals / courts for all the submerged lands whether they are related to reservoir projects construction or due to river floods (i.e. non-utilisation of river water). Upstream states shall not take granted that downstream state areas are permitted to be flooded /inundated by the river flood water without offering agreeable relief / comforts.

Orissa and Chhattisgarh entered into agreement (clause 3e, Annexure F, Page 159 of original GWDT) to construct a Hydro electricity project at Konta / Motu just upstream of the confluence point of Sileru tributary with Sabari River (tri-junction point of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh boarders).[34] When this project is constructed, the land submergence would be more than that of Polavaram back waters. It would be better that Orissa and Chhattisgarh enter into agreement with Andhra Pradesh to shift the location of this Hydro electricity project further down stream in Andhra Pradesh territory to harness Sileru river water also for hydro electricity generation. This joint project of the three states would eliminate the back waters issue of Polavaram dam.

The 200 km long stretch of the Sabari river forming boundary between Chhattisgarh and Odisha drops by 2.25 meters per km length on average. This stretch of the river has substantial hydro electricity generation potential by building medium head (< 20 m) barrages in series to minimise land submergence. The surplus water of Indravati River in Odisha can also be diverted to Sabari river via Jaura Nallah through which Indravati River flood waters naturally overflow into Sabari basin.

See also[edit]

External References[edit]


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  2. ^ "Agitation against Polavaram, SANDRP" (PDF). Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  3. ^ L., Bharati; V. U. Smakhtin and B. K. Anand (2009). "Modeling water supply and demand scenarios: the Godavari-krishna inter-basin transfer, India" (PDF). Water Policy 11: 140. doi:10.2166/wp.2009.109. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Godavari river basin map"
  5. ^ a b Luna, Bharati; B. K. Anand; Vladmir Smakhtin (2009). "Analysis of the Inter-basin Water Transfer Scheme in India: A Case Study of the Godavari-Krishna Link". Strategic Analysis of the National River Linking Project (NRLP) on India 5: 63–78. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  6. ^ Amarasinghe, Upali A.; Sharma, Bharat R. (2008). "Benefits of Irrigation Water Transfer in the National River Linking Project: A Case Study of the Godavari (Polavaram)-Krishna Link in Andhra Pradesh". Strategic Analysis of the National River Linking Project (NRLP) on India 2: 173–193. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  7. ^ Gujja, Biksham (2006). Perspectives on Polavaram, a major irrigation project on Godavari. Academic Foundation. pp. 17–19. ISBN 81-7188-578-0. http://books.google.co.in/books?id=HSnDO8Nlj2IC&lpg=PP1&dq=Perspectives%20on%20Polavaram%2C%20a%20major%20irrigation%20project%20on%20Godavari&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false.
  8. ^ a b "Detailed report on Polavaram Project, GoAP". Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d "YSR performs bhoomi pooja for Polavaram project". The Financial Express. 9 November 2004. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "Dronamraju's birthday celebrated". The Hindu. 20 December 2005. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  11. ^ "పోలవరంమొదటి దశ పనులకు నిధులుమంజూరు". Oneindia.in. 27 July 2004. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  12. ^ "Tenders issued for AP irrigation projects". The Hindu Business Line. 21 August 2004. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "Salient design data of Polavaram project, National Water Development Authority, GoI" (PDF). Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  14. ^ "Irrigation projects status in Andhra Pradesh, AP Govt.". Retrieved 1 October 2013. 
  15. ^ "Engineering Geology of dams; by Siva Bharatha Murthy . T" (PDF). Retrieved 17 February 2013. 
  16. ^ "Indirasagar (Polavaram) Project reservoir, Ministry of water resources, GoI" (PDF). Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  17. ^ Brown, Lester R. (November 29, 2013). "India's dangerous 'food bubble'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on December 4, 2013. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  18. ^ S., Laxman Rao; Priya Deshingkar and John Farrington (30 December 2006). "Tribal Land Alienation in Andhra Pradesh" (PDF). Economic and Political Weekly: 5401–5407. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  19. ^ "Polavaram project will spell doom for tribals: Human Rights Forum". The Hindu Business Line. 19 May 2005. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  20. ^ "Green signal for Polavaram dam". The Times of India. 25 October 2005. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  21. ^ "Polavaram project gets clearance". The Hindu. 26 October 2005. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  22. ^ "TRS stalls Assembly over Polavaram". The Times of India. 17 February 2006. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  23. ^ "CPI(M) plans Chalo Assembly on Polavaram". The Hindu. 9 February 2006. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  24. ^ G. V., Ramana Rao (8 April 2006). "Work on Polavaram project in full swing". The Hindu. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  25. ^ G., Nagaraja (18 May 2006). "Polavaram project works come to a grinding halt again". The Hindu. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  26. ^ "Orissa for joint survey on Polavaram project". The Hindu. 15 November 2006. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  27. ^ "Polavaram: no submergence in other States". The Hindu. 28 March 2007. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  28. ^ "Polavaram dam: Andhra vs Orissa". NDTV. 4 November 2010. Retrieved 4 November 2010. 
  29. ^ "THE ANDHRA PRADESH REORGANISATION (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2014" (PDF). 17 July 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  30. ^ http://www.newswala.com/India-National-News/TRS-calls-bandh-in-Telangana-on-29-May-2014-64192.html
  31. ^ "Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal final report, page 52"
  32. ^ "Water flow data at Polavaram". Retrieved 26 May 2014. 
  33. ^ "State wise flood damage statistics in India" (PDF). Retrieved 4 January 2013. 
  34. ^ "24 MW Sukuma Hydro Project near Konta". Retrieved 29 April 2013.