What is the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project?
- The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation System is considered to be one of the world’s largest multi-purpose projects. It is designed to provide water for irrigation and drinking purposes to about 45 lakh acres in 20 of the 31 districts in Telangana, apart from Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The cost of the project is Rs 80,000 crore, but is expected to rise to Rs 1 lakh crore by the time it is completely constructed by the end of 2020.
What does the project entail?
- This project is unique because Telangana will harness water at the confluence of two rivers with Godavari by constructing a barrage at Medigadda in Jayashankar Bhupalpally district and reverse pump the water into the main Godavari River and divert it through lifts and pumps into a huge and complex system of reservoirs, water tunnels, pipelines and canals.
- The project has set many records with the world’s longest water tunnels, aqueducts, underground surge pools, and biggest pumps. By the time the water reaches Kondapochamma Sagar, the last reservoir in the system, about 227 kms away in Gajwel district, the Godavari water would have been lifted to a height of 618 metres from its source at Medigadda.
- The total length of the entire Kaleshwaram project is approximately 1,832 km of which 1,531 km is gravity canals and 203 km comprise water tunnels. There are 20 water lifts and 19 pump houses in the project.
- The massive project is divided into seven links and 28 packages and involved digging of 20 reservoirs in 13 districts with a total capacity to store 145 TMC. The reservoirs are interconnected through a network of tunnels running about 330 km, the longest being 21 km long connecting Yellampalli reservoir with Medaram reservoir in Peddapalli district.
- While the intricate canal network covers approximately 1,832 km, the farthest point is Narketpally in Nalgonda district which is 500 km away from the source. Except for a few stretches involving pipelines and canals, much of the project is complete. The project was inaugurated by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao on June 21 last year.
How important is KLIS to Telangana?
- Kaleshwaram will transform Telangana into an agricultural powerhouse. The project will enable farmers in Telangana to reap multiple crops with a year-round supply of water wherein earlier they were dependent on rains resulting in frequent crop failures. This year, Telangana farmers have already delivered bumper rabi crops of paddy and maize due to better irrigation facilities and an extended monsoon.
- KLIS covers several districts which used to face rainfall deficit and the groundwater is fluoride-contaminated. Apart from providing water for irrigation to 45 lakh acres, a main component of the project is supply of drinking water to several towns and villages and also to twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
- Mission Bhagiratha, the Rs 43,000-crore project to supply drinking water to every household in villages, draws a large quantity of water from the KLIS and some quantity from projects on River Krishna. There is a burgeoning fresh water fishing industry in the state as the numerous water bodies created under the project are also being used to grow fish and locals are given rights to fish and sell.
What is the recent order of the National Green Tribunal?
- On October 12, the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal, New Delhi, ruled that the Environmental Clearance given to the project in December 2017 was void as the Telangana government subsequently changed the design of the project to increase its capacity. The NGT observed that by increasing its capacity to pump 3 TMC water from 2 TMC, which was originally planned, major changes were made in the project due to which large tracts of forest land and other land was taken over and massive infrastructure was built causing adverse impact on the environment.
- The Telangana Government’s argument that the expansion of the project to extract 3 TMC instead of 2 TMC did not involve any infrastructural changes and therefore a fresh EC was not required, was not accepted by the NGT. “Extraction of more water certainly requires more storage capacity and also affects hydrology and riverine ecology of Godavari River. Such issues may have to be examined by the statutory authorities concerned. Prima facie, it is difficult to accept the plea that enhancement of capacity by one third will not require any infrastructural changes. In any case, this aspect needs to be evaluated by the statutory expert Committees before the expansion is undertaken,’’ the NGT observed in its order.
- The NGT also directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change to constitute a seven-member Expert Committee within a month to assess the extent of damage caused in going ahead with the project’s expansion and identify the restoration measures necessary. The Expert Committee will complete its exercise within six months. The NGT directed the Telangana Government to stop all work except the drinking water component and obtain a Forest Clearance from the Centre before going ahead with the project.
What has been the Telangana government’s response?
- Irrigation Secretary said the state government will abide by the NGT directions and obtain the necessary clearances. According to Irrigation Department engineers, to enhance the capacity from 2 TMC to 3 TMC not very big changes are required. To store the additional 1 TMC, land for a reservoir has already been acquired while pipelines and canals are already in the works.