M. Malleswara Rao
80-ft dam constructed across the river at a cost of Rs. 273 crores
Project to irrigate 80,060 acres in rain-shadow area Water for 2.56-lakh people in Ongole, 43 hamlets
CHINNA MALLAPURAM (PRAKASAM DT.): Long gestation between concept and result seems to have no relevance to Jalayagnam. The pet programme of Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, launched two-and-half-years ago, to tap unused waters of rivers, has begun to pay off.
Matching a hilltop ancient temple at this desolate village stands now a `modern temple of humanity' in the valley down a 80-ft high dam containing Gundlakamma river for the first time, to irrigate 80,060 acres in this dusty rain-shadow area and quench the thirst of 2.56-lakh people at Ongole and 43 hamlets.
The 167-km long river that originates in the Western Ghats flowed down waste into the Bay of Bengal for centuries, often in flash floods as seen last year, becoming the area's sorrow.
With a capacity to store 3.8 tmcft (thousand million cubic ft) of water, the dam will now use 13 tmcft out of 29 tmcft available in the river yearly.
Huge crowds are flocking to the tourist attraction that the water spread of the dam has become, following the first impounding.
A sum of Rs. 273 crores has gone into the project to give it its present shape, with all the portions relevant for water release complete.
B. Suryanarayana Babu, superintending engineer, offered to release water to 18,000 acres under Right and Left canals but displaced families don't want the benefit unless rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) issues are settled. Water release has, therefore, been postponed to August when the entire contemplated ayacut of 80,060 acres will be covered. Five of the 15 crest-gates have been hoisted and Right and Left canals readied with distributaries up to 10 km and 16 km respectively as against their full lengths of 26 km and 22 km. Eighty per cent of the R&R is complete with the construction of five all-facility colonies for the families of five fully and six partially submersible villages and payment of compensation to others. Some families, however, are still aggrieved. Forty per cent of the project's cost (Rs. 176 crores) has been set-aside for R&R and of this, Rs. 163 crores had been spent so far.