Telangana and Andhra Pradesh escalate their war over the waters of Krishna river

Telangana has conceived half-a-dozen new irrigation projects, which calls an ‘inevitable consequence’ of Andhra Pradesh grounding a lift irrigation scheme without permissions

Updated - November 22, 2021 10:10 pm IST

Published - July 02, 2021 07:48 pm IST - HYDERABAD and VIJAYAWADA:

The Krishna river seen at Kanakadurgamma Varadhi of Vijayawada. File

The Krishna river seen at Kanakadurgamma Varadhi of Vijayawada. File


Over the last few days, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have escalated their battle over the waters of the river Krishna, with Telangana conceiving half-a-dozen new irrigation projects, which it has called an “inevitable consequence” of Andhra Pradesh grounding a lift irrigation scheme without any permissions, for water requirements outside the river basin.

The crux of the water dispute between the two States is the allegation by the Andhra Pradesh government that Telangana is drawing Krishna river water from the Srisailam, Nagarjuna Sagar and Pulichintala projects for hydel power generation without obtaining clearances from the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB). The Andhra Pradesh government says the operation and maintenance of the Srisailam and Pulichintala projects, and the Prakasam barrage, are in its purview, whereas the Nagarjuna Sagar and Jurala projects are under the control of Telangana.

By an order issued on May 5 last year, the Andhra Pradesh government had given administrative sanction for the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (RLIS) to lift 3 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) water daily from the Srisailam reservoir, which was to be carried through the Srisailam Right Main Canal (SRMC) to meet the requirements of the Rayalaseema region of the State. The carrying capacity of the canal was to be enhanced from 44,000 cusecs to 88,000 cusecs to absorb the extra load. The total estimated value of works mentioned in the order was ₹6,829 crore.


The Andhra Pradesh government invited tenders for works and has launched them on a war footing with a large number of earthmovers, tippers, and concrete batching and crushing plants, over the last few months.

To counter this, a meeting of the Cabinet of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao in June gave the go-ahead for a barrage across the Krishna at Alampur in Gadwal district, a flood flow canal, a lift irrigation scheme from the Nagarjunasagar tail-pond, and three other projects. The Telangana government directed its Irrigation Department to take up the survey and prepare detailed project reports.

On top of it, the Telangana government took up hydel generation by the discharge of water at four projects along the course of the river — Jurala, Srisailam, Nagarjuna Sagar and Pulichintala — which touched 34.16 million units on July 1. This was protested by the Andhra Pradesh government on the ground that the generation, particularly at Srisailam, where the output was 12.97 million units, would badly affect flows to the RLIS.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy shot off letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, complaining that the generation had been taken up unilaterally, without any water release orders from the KRMB.



In his letter of July 1 to the PM, Mr. Reddy said that Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are supposed to share the river water in 66:34 ratio as per the allocation made on an ad hoc basis by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-1, after deducting minor irrigation utilisations, evaporation losses and diversions to the river Godavari. Andhra Pradesh’s share according to this allocation is 512 tmc ft and Telangana’ share is 299 tmc ft.

Water release is regulated by a committee consisting of Chief Engineers of the two States and the Member-Secretary of the KRMB, and depends on inflows into the reservoirs, available storage, and pro rata entitlements.

The Andhra Pradesh government insists that the established protocol bars Telangana from drawing water for power generation without irrigation demands being met first.

Regarding Srisailam, which was initially a hydroelectric project and is now a multipurpose project, the Andhra Pradesh government says Telangana is drawing water when the storage is 33.39 tmc ft, which is well below the minimum draw down level, and generating electricity in its left bank power house without placing an indent with the KRMB. The storage capacity of this reservoir is 215.80 tmc ft.

As a consequence, Andhra Pradesh is unable to draw water through the Pothireddypadu head regulator, which caters to the requirements of Rayalaseema, Nellore and Prakasam districts, and the drinking water needs of Chennai.

Andhra Pradesh is facing a similar predicament in the utilisation of the allocated Krishna water through Nagarjuna Sagar and Pulichintala projects having 312 tmc ft and 45.77 tmc ft of storage capacities, respectively, as Andhra Pradesh alleges Telangana has been drawing water for power generation in the absence of irrigation requirements, without the KRMB’s nod.

The unauthorised drawing of water from the above projects resulted in the wastage of precious water as it flowed into the Bay of Bengal, Mr. Reddy complained to Mr. Modi in his bid to make Telangana abide by the sharing agreements.

The Telangana government argued that Srisailam was mainly a hydro power station and the KRMB had specifically said “unless there is power exigency, the State cannot take up generation”. Rightly so, Telangana said, it had power exigency because it was operating pumping stations at the Kaleswaram, Nettempad, Bheema, Koilsagar and Kalwakurthy lift irrigation schemes, which required a huge amount of power. In the coming days, pumping would also start at the Alisagar, Srisailam left bank canal, Devadula and Guthpa lift irrigation schemes. Hydel power was the cheapest available in monsoon, which the State government wanted to tap to the maximum, an official said.

To Andhra Pradesh’s claim that it was faced with a threat to its drinking water needs due to the acts by Telangana, the official said the former State had filled up 120 tmc ft in its reservoirs, which was “more than sufficient this year”.

Mr. Reddy’s letter coincided with Telangana fortifying its hydel power stations with police forces to continue generation unhindered. The road bridges on the dams were closed for commuters and even employees at the stations were allowed only after a thorough check.

The execution of the RLIS came at a time when the southern bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) had talked tough against the Chief Secretary of Andhra Pradesh for violating its order to not to go ahead with the project without environmental clearance from the Centre. The Telangana government had filed a contempt case in the NGT against Andhra Pradesh after the tribunal had mandated the KRMB inspect the project site, but this was not facilitated by the latter.

To counter Andhra Pradesh’s argument that it had executed the RLIS to use its share of water in the river, Telangana too said there was no question of share for any State because the matter was not settled in a court or a river water disputes tribunal, and that only a temporary arrangement had been made by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana during the bifurcation of the erstwhile State to share water in the ratio of 512 tmc ft : 299 tmc ft, till the final allocation was made.

The Telangana government also highlighted that Andhra Pradesh had allocation of assured water to carry 15 tmc ft for Chennai’s drinking water requirements through the Telugu Ganga project, and 19 tmc ft for the Srisailam right bank canal from a head regulator at Pothireddypadu which drew water from the Srisailam project. Beyond that, all projects in Andhra Pradesh were dependent on floods at Srisailam and Nagarjunasagar.

Telangana had moved the Supreme Court after its demand to the Centre to refer the reallocation of water between the four riparian States — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana — went unheeded. The demand was later scaled down to only Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Even before the court disposed of the case, the Centre referred the question of reallocation of water to an existing tribunal headed by Justice Brijesh Kumar, which made project-wise allocation of water that was not to Telangana’s satisfaction.

On the Centre’s proposal as a way of conceding the demand, Telangana withdrew the case with the rider that it would go back to court if the demand was not referred to the tribunal.

Andhra Pradesh questioned why Telangana should have any objections because it was entitled to 512 tmc ft water that it could use in any manner. It asked why it should be stopped from building projects rather than letting flood water go waste into the sea. The State had permissions for the Telugu Ganga, and projects such as the Handri Neeva, Galeru Nagari and Veligonda in the Penna basin. Water was drawn only to meet their requirements and not an acre more, Andhra Pradesh maintained.

Andhra Pradesh also said Telangana was drawing water from a depth of 800 ft (the full reservoir level is 885 ft). Therefore, it had designed the RLIS to pump water from a depth of 797 ft.

Telangana’s decision on its half-a-dozen new projects is viewed as tit-for-tat with reference to the RLIS because one of them, a barrage at Alampur near Gadwal, was supposed to lift the same 3 tmc ft water as the RLIS. This was conveyed by its Chief Minister at the apex council meeting with his Andhra Pradesh counterpart and the Union Jal Shakti Minister in October, 2020.

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