Kaleshwaram project: BJP, Congress hobnobbed even before Telangana elections; Medigadda’s fate imperilled

On the damage to Medigadda in Kaleshwaram project, NDSA got 4 months to study as opposed its report done in four days earlier suggesting BJP ,Congress connivance.

Kaleshwaram to the rescue: Pumps roar to irrigate 18 lakh acres under SRSP and Nizamsagar

HYDERABAD: Have the BJP and the Congress ganged up together against the BRS even before the Telangana Assembly elections and given a political twist to the damage to Medigadda barrage on t he Kaleshwaram project?

The way the National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) had churned out a report in a jiffy soon after the sagging of pillars of the Medigadda barrage before the elections, and the way the Congress government now gave four months to study the damage point to this suspicion.

Meanwhile, engineers are worried about the fate of the entire barrage when the Godavari would be in a spate in the rainy season.

Are the Centre and the State Governments ready to compromise on the safety of the entire project just for the sake of three sagged pillars?

Are they able to understand the enormity of the damage to the structure and also to the crops and farm fields?

Engineers worried

What happens if the crippled Medigadda Barrage was left uncared for, for four months with the monsoon rains in upper catchment areas bringing in 16.17 TMC of flood water to the barrage. The fierce Godavari, that too arriving at a high speed, added to the incline at the barrage site could spell doom to the Medigadda barrage.

Also Read: Six-member CWC team to inspect dam safety at Medigadda Barrage on Tuesday

The National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) constituted a five-member committee headed by ex-CWC Chairman J Chandrasekhar Iyer which would study Medigadda, Annaram, and Sundilla barrages and submit a report within four months.

This would mean that the report would come around the first week of July, whereas the monsoon begins by June 15 and the flood water would reach Medigadda even before the Government would initiate the repairs suggested by the national authority.

“Leaving Medigadda without repairs for four months might extend the damage to sixth and eighth blocks or completely wash away the barrage,” a senior engineer in the Telangana Irrigation and Command Area Department told NewTAP on Monday.

Also Read: Central team visits Lakshmi Barrage, to submit report to Union Jal Shakti Ministry

The engineers, who had been monitoring the situation since October 21, 2023, the day the pier sagged, demanded that the Government ask for an interim report and an action plan to secure the barrage before the commencement of monsoon. They argued that once the barrage was filled up with water, there was nothing that the experts could do to save the structure.

Two days then, four months now?

It was a wonder how the NDSA churned the first report on Medigadda with such speed. While the mishap occurred on October 21, 2023, the very next day, on October 22, 2023, the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti issued a letter constituting a Dam Safety Panel of six members headed by Anil Jain, Chairman of National Dam Safety Authority and S K Sharma, R Thangamani, Rahul K Singh, Devendra Rao, and Praveen Annepu, all from the Central Water Commission (CWC).

Also Read: NDSA report on Kaleshwaram akin to fabricated reports of ED, CBI on opposition parties

On Oct 23, 2023, they reached Telangana and completed the visit on October 27, 2023. They then left for New Delhi slapping a deadline of October 29 2023 for the Telangana Government and I&CAD Department to provide all necessary documents. Even before all the documents could be submitted, they brought out a report on November 1, 2023. The report was in circulation in media on November 3, 2023.

Considering the potential impact of the mishap on the BRS in the Assembly elections in the State at that time, Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat tweeted: “Exposed! K Chandrashekar Rao led Telangana govt’s corruption stands hopelessly exposed. It is appalling to know that the greed & corruption of the BRS govt has led to risking the lives of lakhs of people & loss of crores of rupees of taxpayers’ money”.

NDSA rescues Revanth Reddy

The Congress Government led by A Revanth Reddy in Telangana and the BJP at the Centre made the multi-stage Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP) their election agenda and extrapolated the sagging of piers at Medigadda to Annaram and Sundilla into their political narrative.

Also Read: NDSA report not based on investigation, built as per CBIP manual, says Telangana Govt

The NDSA, being a Central Government organisation, even suggested that the other two sister barrages would go the Medigadda way and suggested demolition and reconstruction of the three barrages rendering the entire KLIP useless.

This time around, the NDSA came to the rescue of the Revanth Reddy Government by giving it four months to pickle the Medigadda problem without suggesting interim remedial measures. The timing suited Congress as the BRS when the farming community started demanding the lifting of water using KLIP and filling up of reservoirs by March to save the ‘Vanakalam’ cropping season.

The contractor L&T even started building a coffer dam and diverted water to empty water from the sagged pillars to get a closer look and even to suggest a way out of the predicament. Unmindful of the ramifications, the Government emptied the Annaram barrage thereby flooding the Medigadda, hampering the L&T operations.

Why single out KLIP

Just as when the Medigadda hit the headlines, there were other projects elsewhere in the country that were either washed away or marooned. The NDSA did not rush to the following places where the mishaps occurred nor submitted a hurried report as it did in Telangana.

• On October 3, 2023, a 1200 MW Teesta 3 dam was washed away in Sikkim.

• A landslide hit the 2000 MW Lower Subansiri Hydropower Project on the Assam Arunachal Pradesh border on October 27, 2023.

• Similar mishaps in the Larji Hydropower project, and the Malana II Hydropower project.

• Faulty operation of Bhakra, Pong, Pindar and other dams.

• In Gujarat, Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada caused an avoidable flood disaster on September 16-18, 2023.

Also Read: Kaleshwaram extends beyond Medigadda barrage, says Harish Rao

However, the NDSA submitted its report on November 1, 2023, on Kaleshwaram in which it clearly stated that the sagging of piers at the Medigadda barrage was due to a combination of issues involving planning, design, quality control, and operation and maintenance” of the Dam. “The barrage under the present condition is rendered useless until fully rehabilitated,” the report said.

Impact on ayacut

Meanwhile, the farmers of northern Telangana and parts of Nalgonda started facing acute water shortage even as half of TMC of water was wasted from Medigadda down the stream every single day. While the I&CAD department officials were not worried about the impact of the KLIP shutdown on Vanakalam cropping season at this juncture, they said that if SRSP and Yellempally could be filled in time and the Kaddem water filling in Yellampally the season could be saved. They said that by June or July, water in 50 TMC under KLIP could fill Nizamsagar saving certain ayacut.

Also Read: Congress Govt in Telangana clueless on handling Medigadda glitch; Annaram water release blunder, says L&T

When the delay could cause an enormous damage to the project and also farm fields, the Governments are buying time to effect emergency repairs. Meanwhile, they are trying to squarely blame the BRS.

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