Lifting hopes

Print edition : March 28, 2008

At the pumphouse of the Devadula project in Warangal district.-BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

ALTHOUGH the mighty Godavari river passes through the Telangana region in Andhra Pradesh, it remains parched much of the year. This is because nearly 3,500 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) annually flows, unutilised, into the Bay of Bengal.

The region lies hundreds of feet above the flow level of the Godavari, making any effort to draw the rivers water through a gravitation canal an impossibility unless a high dam is constructed to build-up sufficient storage. The fate of the uplands in East and West Godavari districts downstream is no different.

Nonetheless, a beginning has been made by the present State government under Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy to save these arid zones using technology.

In place of dams and gravitation canals, lift irrigation schemes have been taken up not only in Telangana and East Godavari district but all over the State. This is part of the governments ambitious Jalayagnam programme, which aims to construct 58 dams and other water-tapping structures. An investment of Rs.100,000 crore is earmarked to bring a vast ayacut of one crore acres afresh under the plough and provide drinking water to thousands of habitations.

The water is to be pumped up using heavy-duty motors wherever water lies far below ground level and then conveyed to lakes and tanks through pipelines; it will then be supplied to fields through open channels wherever possible.

For the first time, eight massive lift irrigation schemes Devadula, Yellampalli, Chevella-Pranahita, Singareddypalli, Gupta, Ali Sagar, Indira Sagar and Rajiv Sagar have been taken up in Telangana at an estimated cost of over Rs.40,000 crore. This will utilise at least 500 tmc ft of water from the Godavari and irrigate over 40 lakh acres.

Likewise, the Tadipudi and Pushkaram lifts, constructed with an investment of Rs.500 crore on the right and left flanks of the Godavari upstream of Rajahmundry, will serve an ayacut of 500,000 acres once it is aligned to the Polavaram mega project. These canals now provide water to 2.5 lakh acres. Meanwhile, work on the Polavaram dam is proceeding at a brisk pace.

Each of these new schemes is unique in its own way. But Devadula stands out. It is rated Asias biggest lift irrigation scheme. It ranks next only to the worlds highest lift in Arizona, United States.

Devadula is an engineering feat. Godavari water is lifted to an awesome 1,000 ft (300 m) under Phase I of the project. The waters will be pulled up to a further height of 500 ft under Phase II. When Phase III is completed, the total height attained will be nearly 2,000 ft.

Once completed, Devadula, now named after the Telangana leader J. Chokka Rao, will use 50 tmc ft of water to irrigate 6.46 lakh acres in Warangal, Karimnagar and Nalgonda districts, besides providing drinking water to thousands of rural and urban areas en route. The drinking water problem of Warangal city will be solved as its principal source, Dharmasagar, has been made a balancing reservoir of the project.

The river is tapped at a shallow point in the forests of Gangaram in Warangal district; water is drawn into an intake structure initially, lifted by stages of pumping, and conveyed into Dharmasagar at a distance of 120 kilometres from the source.

Devadula and Pushkaram will be dedicated to the nation by United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi on March 14.

C. Krishnaiah, Chief Engineer of the project, says Devadula is ready to provide water to 60,000 acres from June as the network of open canals is almost ready.

M. Malleswara Rao
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