Andhra’s resistance to Telangana is linked to future access to the river’s waters on which the coastal region’s industries are heavily dependent
The Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, State Finances for the year ended March 2012 (of the Government of Andhra Pradesh), records that there are 56 incomplete major irrigation projects in all. More than half are directed towards coastal Andhra, and a few to the Rayalaseema region. The details of the projects are available in official records and on the State Irrigation Department’s website. Of these, the financial status of the Indira Sagar Polavaram is shown as follows: in 2004, the year of its commencement, the “original estimated cost” of the project (all in crore) was Rs.10,151.04; the “revised cost” Rs.16,010.45; “expenditure” up to the end of March was Rs.4,234.18; and, the “cost overrun” was Rs.5,859.41. Among other high cost irrigation projects are the Somasila, Indiramma Flood Flow Canal, Indirasagar Rudramakota Lift Irrigation Scheme, AMR-SLBC LIS and the Telugu Ganga project, which has the highest cost overrun of Rs. 7,747.00 crore. There are 16 medium irrigation projects with a total overall cost overrun of Rs. 20,142.06 crore. All these are “incomplete” projects. Some are ongoing.
Apportioning of spoils
In the current battle between pro- and anti-statehood for Telangana, little has been said or written about the Polavaram dam (commenced by the late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, whose regime also figured in the leaked WikiLeaks cables for the volume of graft in irrigation projects, with four to five companies executing all the projects), considering that how the spoils of the project are apportioned is important for both Telangana and Andhra, even in the now unlikely event of a new state not being created.
Along with the Telangana announcement, the Congress declared Polavaram a national project, thus centrally sanctioning the largest displacement (from a single project) of the tribal populations of three districts. The maximum submergence will take place in the Khammam district of Telangana, where more than 200 of the 276 official (300 unofficial) villages will go under water. The other two districts are East Godavari and West Godavari Scheduled Area. Yet, keeping aside the displacement aspect for the moment, many other questions arise over the status and politics of Krishna and Godavari rivers now and in future. Where does that leave inter-State Godavari water distribution? And what will be its likely impact on the livelihoods of the tribal communities in the two States?
For the longest time, the Telangana discourse revolved around Godavari waters, irrigation, unequal economic development, farm suicides and the farm debt crisis in most of its agrarian areas. With the creation of a State which lies physiographically upstream (while benefits have flowed downstream) will the dynamics change and in what way remains a question. In deciding allocations of river waters between two States that had hitherto been two regions, would it be about water for basics and agriculture of small and medium farmers of Telangana (whose aspirations for statehood were built on these premises) or for global industrial regimes in the coastal districts?
In 2010, I found an advertisement (a pullout in an English daily, dated June 30) issued by the Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation highlighting the “10 Things Good with Godavari” which included “timeless river, rice bowl of south India, rich agriculture, natural resources … access to sea ports, big players already there, a willing administration and peaceful politics.” The ad mentioned the “big players,” including ONGC, Reliance and Cairn Energy. “APIIC has secured four blocks of oil fields — two offshore and two onshore — covering 4,587 sq km … The state’s chief facilitator is the shaping hand in 300 industrial parks, covering a cumulative extent of 1.30 lakh acres. In just the last five years, APIIC made available 30,000 acres of land to entrepreneurs, besides accumulating a land bank of 82,000 acres.”
To me the APIIC was advertising a future closely linked to the Polavaram dam with stakes on Godavari that go way higher than any of the ‘smaller’ and ‘incidental’ issues raised about small and medium farmers’ first or second or third crops. The APIIC was also talking about “an industrial estate at Velugubanda in Rajanagaram mandal …, industrial parks at Peddapuram over 1,100 acres and at Kakinada over 1,053 acres and modernisation of the Samalkot canal to cater to the future needs of industry” apart from the “Kakinada Special Economic Zone” (that was coming up) “over 10,000 acres in East Godavari …”
Andhra Pradesh Petroleum, Chemicals and Petrochemicals Investment Region: This is a “specially delineated investment region of 603.58 sq km for manufacturing and service facilities for domestic and export-led production of petroleum, chemicals and petrochemicals.” The Andhra Pradesh government signed a MoA with the Department of Petrochemicals, Government of India, for this in the year 2009. According to the official website of the APPCPIR, “an investment of $3.95 billion is being made for external infrastructure of PCPIR in Andhra Pradesh. The investments are being made by the State Government of Andhra Pradesh, the Central Government of India and private players …” It also mentions the “major investors,” which include “Reliance, Eisai, Continental Carbon, Velankani, RCL, Naturol, ISPRL, SNF India, Air Liquide, Baker Hughes, Biocon, Phormozell.”
Then there was a connected corporate edifice, called the Visakhapatnam Industrial Water Supply Project (commissioned in 2004), a “first-of-its-kind dedicated Industrial Water Sector Project” which promises “365 days assured industrial water supply” to several “mega-infrastructure projects” coming up in the “near vicinity [of Visakhapatnam] …”
Where will the water come from? From the “Yeleru Left Main Canal from Yeleru Reservoir (385 MLD); Pipeline from Godavari (385 MLD); Samalkota Canal from Godavari (220 MLD); Polavaram Left Main Canal, which is under execution (1848 MLD)” (source: http://www.appcpir.com).
The entire process of Polavaram dam construction, including canals, pipelines, etc., was almost given away as a largesse by the State government during YSR’s regime to contractors (though ostensibly through tenders) as “packages,” now a Telugu term. Since 2004-05, different stretches of the Polavaram work area, named “C-1”, “C-2” and so on are under contract, sub-contract or joint ventures of private firms such as Progressive Constructions (which, importantly, was founded by the Congress MP, Kavuri Sambasiva Rao, who hails from the West Godavari district). Details of contractors can be seen on government websites. A study of the caste, class, and political composition of the companies to which such ‘public works’ are allocated can reveal a few crucial truths. Considering that the largest ‘beneficiaries’ of the Polavaram dam will be the industries along the coastal corridor and the contractors of the dam are mostly from that region, it may be important to look deeper into the agitation in the coastal Andhra region and, to a lesser extent, in Rayalaseema.
The current nature of resistance to Telangana is deeply linked, principally, to the investments in irrigation and real estate projects and future access to Godavari waters for the industrial corridor, on the one hand, and, on the other, for the middle classes, the fear of losing urban and globally connected employment opportunities (apart from government jobs) in Hyderabad than with the ideals of ‘unity’ (samaikyam) or the livelihoods of the poorest of the poor. Even the Telangana camps, including the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, seem to have sidelined the issue of the Polavaram dam and its long-term, irreversible, impact in not only matters of ecology and environment but also on what will ultimately remain for the most marginalised (in either regions, or States) once the Godavari is apportioned to global firms in a skewed world economy. Even in case a Telangana state happens, one does not know what will be “gambled away” over this game of dice.
(The author is an independent journalist based in Hyderabad awaiting publication of her book, When Godavari Comes: People’s History of a River)
Keywords: CAG report, Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation, State Finances, Polavaram dam construction, YSR regime, inter-State Godavari water distribution, Telangana statehood, separate statehood, Telangana protest, Godavari river