In Telangana, a project in troubled waters

It is time for facts about the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project to come out

January 15, 2024 01:02 am | Updated 01:03 am IST

The Congress, which recently assumed power in Telangana, has been opposing the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project from the start. File

The Congress, which recently assumed power in Telangana, has been opposing the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project from the start. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP), considered to be one of the world’s largest multi-purpose projects, is known to have increased the production of foodgrain, particularly paddy, in Telangana over the last five years. However, the project, with its long water tunnels, aqueducts, underground surge pools, and large pumps, has been synonymous with controversy from the stage of conceptualisation.

Problems with the project

The Congress, which recently assumed power in the State, has been opposing the KLIP from the start as the project has practically reduced the Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Pranahitha-Chevella Sujala Sravanthi (PCSS) project, conceived by the Congress in 2007 and meant to harness water from the Pranahita tributary of the Godavari river for use in Telangana, to a non-starter. Despite not getting the nod from Maharashtra for the Tummidihetti Barrage, the take-off point of the PCSS, the Congress government in erstwhile combined Andhra Pradesh executed parts of the canal network.

The alleged corruption in the execution of the KLIP was one of the main poll planks for the Congress in its election campaigns in 2018 and 2023, with party leaders going to the extent of charging the then ruling Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) of swindling ₹1 lakh crore in the name of the project. On both occasions, the leaders who led the Congress campaign — N. Uttam Kumar Reddy and A. Revanth Reddy, respectively — vowed to order an inquiry into the alleged corruption once their party formed the government.

The BRS leadership refuted the charges. It demanded to know how ₹1 lakh crore could be swindled when expenditure on the project was about ₹98,000 crore until the Congress government took over. It accused the Congress’s supporters of filing of cases against the project in courts and in the green tribunal with the intention of stalling the project.

What has not helped the BRS’s case is the fact that the project has suffered two major setbacks. First, two of the KLIP’s pump houses linked to the Medigadda and Annaram Barrages got submerged during the Godavari floods in mid-July 2022. Then, in October last, six piers of the Medigadda Barrage suffered serious damage, forcing the authorities to empty the barrage. The incident exposed cracks and other damages in the downstream of the Annaram and Sundilla Barrages too.

In December, Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy announced that a judicial inquiry would be instituted into the alleged corruption and irregularities in the KLIP. BRS leaders also welcomed the probe stating that they too want the truth to come out.

However, the State government was apparently forced to hasten up the process of inquiry by instituting a vigilance inquiry following the alleged burning or missing of some files of the KLIP in one of the project offices. The non-cooperation of some project engineers in submitting information is also understood to have pushed the government to act swiftly. “The Chief Minister has already addressed a letter to the Chief Justice of the High Court for the allotment of a sitting judge for conducting a judicial inquiry into the KLIP irregularities and corruption. In the meantime, we have ordered for a vigilance inquiry,” said Minister for Irrigation N. Uttam Kumar Reddy.

Over a dozen teams of the Vigilance and Enforcement Department conducted searches in several offices of the KLIP at Ramagundam, Mahadevpur, Karimnagar, Warangal and Hyderabad including the office of the Engineer-in-Chief and seized records, files, computer hard disks for three days starting January 9.


Irrespective of whether it’s a Vigilance and Enforcement Department probe or a judicial inquiry by a sitting judge of the High Court, the people of Telangana should be presented with the facts of the case and the reasons for the damage at the barrages. There should also be a thorough technical (expert) investigation into the damage as suggested by the National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA). In its examination of the sinking of the six piers, the NDSA had faulted the planning and design of the project in its report and stated that a combination of issues involving planning, design, quality control and operation and maintenance led to the damage.

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