Though it looks altruistic, the plan to develop one lakh acres of ayacut in the eastern parts of Adilabad district, in addition to the originally proposed 56,000 acres under the Pranaita-Chevella barrage across Pranahita river at Tummidihatti in Koutala mandal, will require payment of a heavy price in terms of environmental destruction.
Alarmed at the prospect of an upheaval of local ecology, conservationists are demanding a ‘sincere’ environmental impact assessment of the project before making a move forward.
The barrage, which is part of the Rs. 38,500 crore mega Pranahita-Chevella lift irrigation scheme, will soon become a reality as the governments and Telangana and Maharashtra have reached an agreement after thrashing out certain irritants, including the height of the structure. Going by the issues which were focussed in the bipartite talks taking place since the last few months, it is clear that environment destruction was not a priority with the governments.
“The impact assessment is necessary all the more because the Pranahita sanctuary downstream of the proposed barrage site has been declared an eco-sensitive zone by the Union government. The area has several prehistoric fossil sites besides, the rare vulture habitat in Bejjur mandal,” points out E.N. Murthy of the Botany Department in Satavahana University, who has done environmental research in the sanctuary besides, studying the riverine ecology.
“Besides the changes, the eco-system from the lotic (in flow) to lentic (static as in reservoir), there will be a great change in hydrology downstream of the dam,” observes Parineeta Dandekar, an expert in the relevant field, who belongs to the organisation, South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP).
“Trapping of silt in the barrage starves the delta of sediment as in the case of the Krishna-Godavari delta, being called the delta-in-peril for the same reason,” she adds to underscore the negative impact that can result following damming of the Pranahita.
In addition to causing imbalance in the ecosystem along the 113 km of the run of Pranahita along the eastern border of Adilabad, construction of canals to irrigate the contemplated ayacut would also upset the ecological balance.
“It will impact severely on the already fragmented habitats and wild animal migration corridors,” Mr. Murthy states, talking about the problem which the wildlife-rich area is likely to face in near future.