NGT halts Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Project in Andhra Pradesh

The NGT said that the project appeared to have an irrigation component, in spite of the state government’s claims that it is only meant for drinking water.
Dam in Andhra Pradesh
Dam in Andhra Pradesh
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The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday told the Andhra Pradesh government that it cannot proceed with the construction of the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Project (RLIP). This comes as a setback to the state in the ongoing river water sharing dispute with Telangana. Earlier in May, the Andhra Pradesh government had sanctioned a few works under the RLIP, including the upgradation of Pothireddypadu head regulator canal system, and other projects worth over Rs 7,000 crore. 

The Telangana government was irked by the move, and alleged that Andhra Pradesh was clandestinely trying to lift 3 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) of water through Pothireddypadu. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has repeatedly stated that the state would only take its share of water allocated by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT).

According to Deccan Chronicle, the NGT Southern Zone on Thursday concluded that, contrary to claims made by the Andhra Pradesh government — that the project was only meant to bring more drinking water to the drought-prone Rayalaseema region — the project seemed to be intended towards using water for irrigation as well. 

Bangalore Mirror reported that the Andhra Pradesh government told the NGT that the project was not a new one, but only supplementary to existing ones. It also said that no additional Cultivable Command Area (CCA) would come under the project. In agreement with this claim, the union Ministry of Environment and Forests had previously said that the project does not require Environmental Clearance (EC), as it is not a new one. However, the NGT disagreed with this stand, according to The New Indian Express

As the NGT had prima facie found “a component of irrigation envisaged in the project which requires an EC”, the tribunal has asked the Andhra Pradesh government to not proceed with the project without Environmental Clearance. 

With the water wars between the two Telugu states escalating with the proposed RLIP works, a meeting was recently held between union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and Chief Ministers Jagan Mohan Reddy and K Chandrasekhar Rao. 

At the meeting, Shekhawat had asked the states to submit DPRs (Detailed Project Report) of all new projects taken up on the Krishna and Godavari rivers. Both CMs have said that the projects under contention in their respective states cannot be considered “new” projects. However, the union government had said that projects for which water has not yet been allocated by the KWDT shall be treated as new projects. This statement meant that the Rayalaseema and Kaleshwaram lift irrigation schemes would also be considered as new projects.

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