Say it could result in an environmental disaster; CM’s assurance raises farmers’ hopes

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy’s recent assurance of increasing the height of the famous Kadem major irrigation project has raised hopes of thousands of farmers in Adilabad district. In the opinion of engineers however, the move to raise the height of the dam could turn out to be a major environmental disaster, even if it is an easy way of improving its ayacut.

Over half a century old now, the project presents all the problems typical of those where shoddy upkeep hits the capacity. The storage capacity of this dam has decreased considerably owing to silt deposit, estimated to be about 30 ft deep in the reservoir.

The project was commissioned hastily in 1962 despite the dam being raised only to a level of 700 ft. against the designed full reservoir level (FRL) of 710 ft. This rendered it capable of irrigating fields only in kharif season to an ayacut of about 70,000 acres.

Later, the developments saw the unofficial ayacut increase to about one lakh acres while the water was carried up to Mancherial mandal about 100 km away. The tail-end farmers nevertheless received water for irrigating their fields during the last quarter of the century as most of the flood water is wasted due to the ever decreasing storage capacity, now pegged at 7.5 tmc. According to authoritative estimates, Kadem project received over 1,300 tmc of flood water between 1972 and 2012. Of this, over 700 tmc was wasted thanks to the inherent flaws.

Irrigation engineers have submitted two different proposals for increasing the capacity of the project so that it will be beneficial to farmers in rabi season also. While one proposes to increase the dam height, the other envisages construction of a balancing reservoir upstream of the project which will replenish Kadem when required in rabi.

“An increase of 10 ft. in height will increase the storage capacity by 4.5 tmc but much reserve forest and part of five villages located across the reservoir will go under submergence. It will be better if the government constructs a balancing reservoir”, opines an engineer.