AP’s Pattiseema haste triggers passions in Rayalaseema

From scoring a political point over rivals to presenting them an issue on a platter, all it took was 24 hours and a canal breach and a borrowed pump.

The breach in an aqueduct of the Polavaram right main canal barely a day after the official release of water from the Pattiseema project linking the Godavari with the Krishna, has not only left the Andhra Pradesh Government red-faced but has created a trust deficit for it in Rayalaseema. Much like the reverse flow of water that the breach triggered, the very image that the Government wanted to build – that it accomplishes project milestones quickly – has suffered a dent.

For over a year now, the Government had hawked Pattiseema as a prestigious adjunct project, a symbol of how one could reap benefits even while the parent national project, Polavaram, awaits completion. But both YSRC and Congress kept accusing the Government of squandering a whopping Rs. 1500 crore on an “ill-conceived temporary project”, while deceiving the people of West and East Godavari districts. Both parties had a point in that the project would become redundant once the Polavaram project is built.

Apparently, by completing Pattiseema in less than six months, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu wanted to send a strong message to his political adversaries: that he would take the project to its logical end despite their obstacles. The YSRC, besides questioning the long-term utility of the project, had alleged large-scale corruption in the allotment of contracts and feared that the Polavaram project would take a back seat due to the sudden ardour for Pattiseema.

Mr. Naidu and his Telugu Desam Party ran an aggressive counter campaign against the YSRC, saying the latter was not interested in supplying water to parched Rayalaseema.

In the recent monsoon session of the Assembly, when the Pattiseema issue came up for debate, YSRC was on the defensive with Mr. Naidu shooting a straight question at the opposition party: are you for it or against it?

The logic is a bit convoluted in that there is no direct pipeline beyond the confluence of the Godavari-Krishna rivers that will carry water to Rayalaseema. What the Government intended to do was to divert 80 tmc ft of water from the Godavari to the Krishna basin and stabilise the Krishna delta which otherwise relies on flows from the Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar dams. The quantum of water saved thus is planned to be used for Rayalseema. There were a lot of ifs and buts, yet the government took the project forward.

The breakneck speed with which the Government went ahead with the project should be seen in the context of the political challenge thrown by the Chief Minister at YSRC and the temptation to go down in history as the man who successfully brought about a confluence of the Godavari-Krishna in a record time. No wonder that Union Minister of State Y.S. Chowdary compared him to Sir Arthur Cotton. It should be remembered that among the slew of projects Mr. Naidu announced in the last one and a half years, Pattiseema looked achievable in a year’s time, unlike others like the long- gestation Polavaram or the new capital Amaravati. It had the potential of being showcased as a symbol of his “relentless and determined efforts to put Andhra Pradesh on a rapid path of development”.

But it was this very punishing pace that did his pet project in.

The pressure of completing the project in a short time meant blinking at time-tested rules and trials. The shoddy planning showed up everywhere: from canal works without the required width to the nonarrival of the required motors, and the hurried ferrying of pumps from the Handri Neeva Sujala Sravanti project. Whatever little planning there was, it went awry. The breach has not only tarred the image of the Government but has triggered a fresh round of regional passions. YSRC and Congress leaders from Rayalaseema now allege that Rs. 1500 crore was being wasted on a “temporary project” to stabilise the Krishna delta while denying the minimum funds for the completion of long-pending projects in drought-prone regions, like HNSS and Galeru-Nagari Sujala Sravanti.

There is no denying the fact that the State needs inter-linking of the Godavari and Krishna, given the fact that the yields from the Krishna river have been steadily falling ever since Karnataka raised the height of the Almatti dam and built several projects upstream.

In contrast, 3000 tmc ft of the Godavari’s water is flowing waste into the sea. The future, experts say, is in harnessing the Godavari and its diversion to the Krishna -- but with a lot of caution. And instead of exercising caution, the Government showed great hurry and paid the price for it.

The breach of the Polavaram right main canal has not only tarred the image of the Government but has triggered a fresh round of regional passions.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 7, 2021 7:00:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/aps-pattiseema-haste-triggers-passions-in-rayalaseema/article7688125.ece

Next Story