Dream projects

Print edition : July 13, 2007

Four ongoing irrigation projects are expected to change vastly the socio-economic map of the district.

M. VENKATESWARA RAO in Ongole

THE Gundlakamma irrigation project at Mallavaram village in Prakasam district.-SREENIVAS-KOMMURI

PRAKASAM district is poised to increase its irrigation potential from the present 7.45 lakh acres (3.01 lakh hectares) to 13.45 lakh acres (5.44 lakh hectares) in the next three years. This quantum jump of 80 per cent will be achieved when the Veligonda, Gundlakamma, Ramatheertham and Palair irrigation projects are completed at a cost of Rs.4,000 crore under the "Jalayagnam" programme launched by Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.

These projects are expected to change vastly the socio-economic map of the chronically drought-affected district. The Veligonda project, which has been renamed the Poola Subbaiah irrigation project after a Communist Party of India leader from Markapur, will provide safe drinking water to 15 lakh people who had been consuming groundwater with excess fluoride content for decades.

While the Gundlakamma (renamed the Kandula Obula Reddy project after the Congress leader from Cumbum) and Ramatheertham projects are almost complete, the Veligonda project is expected to be ready by March 2009.

These projects will be remembered for different reasons: Gundlakamma for its speedy land acquisition through consent awards, which paved the way for its timely completion, and Veligonda for addressing the ecological and environmental concerns, especially that of Project Tiger in the Nallamala Hills, even though it meant a higher project cost.

Gundlakamma is one of the 26 fast-track projects taken up in the State. It has earned for irrigation and revenue officials of the district the distinction of being the first project to be completed in two years. The dam constructed across the Gundlakamma river near Mallavaram village at a cost of Rs.453 crore would impound 3.48 tmc ft of water to irrigate 80,000 acres (32,374.84 hectares) and meet the drinking water needs of 43 villages besides Ongole town. While five villages will be submerged fully, seven others face partial submersion requiring officials to acquire nearly 6,000 acres (2,428 hectares) of private land and rehabilitate 2,210 families. The district officials created a record by acquiring 5,000 acres (2,023 hectares) in just one year.

District Collector B. Udaya Lakshmi (since transferred) explained that this became possible because land was taken by instituting an award for landowners consenting to sell their property. Moreover, the government permitted officials to pay farmers 100 per cent more than the basic value (registration value) of the land. Regular meetings, persuasion, constant monitoring and political support helped achieve the task, she said.

The government has provided an attractive R&R (relief and rehabilitation) package for the displaced families. Rehabilitation colonies are located near the national highway and have better amenities. Landless persons were paid 700 days' wages as compensation for loss of employment.

Water from the project would be released to 40,000 acres (16,187.4 hectares) by August and to the rest of the ayacut by December.

The Gottipadia Dam works of the Veligonda project.-P.V. SIVAKUMAR

The Veligonda project plans to draw 43.5 tmc ft of flood waters of the Krishna river from the foreshore of the Srisailam project and carry it through the 18.9 km-long tunnel to the Nallamala Sagar near Markapur. The project, which will cost Rs.3,460 crore, will irrigate 4.3 lakh acres (1.7 lakh hectares), mostly in Prakasam district and marginally in Nellore and Kadapa districts.

It is the dream project of the drought-affected upland areas of the district. The government proposes to take up the project in two stages. The first stage will be completed by March 2009 at a cost of Rs.1,665 crore to impound 15.92 tmc ft of water and irrigate 1.19 lakh acres (0.48 lakh hectares).

A huge reservoir, called the Nallamala Sagar, is being formed closing three gaps at Gottipadia, Sunkesula and Kakarla. Irrigation officials have completed 30 per cent of the first phase of the project work costing Rs.465 crore.

The project requires the acquisition of 40,000 acres (16,187 hectares) of private land and 7,586 acres (3,069.9 hectares) of forest land. Officials have acquired 9,600 acres (3,884.9 hectares) required for the first phase of the project. They have identified land for compensatory afforestation at a cost of Rs.580 crore and sent the proposal to the Central government.

The Veligonda project required the drilling of two tunnels for the first and second phases. As the tunnels were to be drilled in the Nallamala protected forest area, they posed an environmental problem. Project Tiger officials objected to the traditional method of digging tunnels by blasting on the plea that it would disturb the tigers. Irrigation officials are importing special equipment from Germany to dig the tunnels without blasting although this has doubled the cost of construction to Rs.600 crore. The machinery is expected to arrive in a month's time.

As Project Tiger officials objected to the laying of roads in the forest area, irrigation officials could not lay a ghat road from Srisailam to the tunnel site covering a distance of 6 km. This compelled them to travel 28 km by boat in the 800-foot deep backwaters to reach the tunnel site.

The Ramatheertham project has been completed at a cost of Rs.50 crore. It will store 1.514 tmc ft of the Krishna water to stabilise 72,000 acres (29,137 hectares) of ayacut under the right bank canal of the Nagarjuna Sagar project in Prakasam district. The Palair project has been taken up at a cost of Rs.35 crore to irrigate 10,000 acres (4,046.85 hectares) in Kondepi constituency.

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