Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao (KCR) saw a trusted friend in YS Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party after the latter swept the state Assembly and Lok Sabha polls in Andhra Pradesh early in 2019. KCR and Jaganmohan Reddy chose to be trouble-shooters, willing to amicably resolve inter-state disputes, including river water sharing, borne out of the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014.
The young Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh had even accepted an invite from the Telangana government and graced a historic occasionâ€” the inauguration of Kaleshwaram Lift irrigation Project, KCRâ€™s brain child. On the floor of the state Assembly, Jaganmohan Reddy praised the â€˜magnanimityâ€™ with which the Telangana Chief Minister wished to prosper water-starved regions like Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh by utilising river waters. The Chief Ministers of the sibling states even went to the extent of jointly initiating a mega river-linkage project worth Rs 1 lakh crore, involving the Godavari and the Krishna rivers.
The facade of bonhomie has seemingly developed fissures now as the Andhra Pradesh government has proposed to build a lift irrigation scheme for diversion of 3 tmc of water from the Krishna river.
On May 5, the Jaganmohan Reddy government issued a Government Order (No 203), proposing to take up the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme at an estimated cost of Rs 7,045 crore.
The scheme intends to draw and utilise 3 tmc of water per day from Sangameswaram to Srisailam Right Bank Canal (SRBC) from the Pothireddypadu Head Regulator. This would include upgrading the canal system from the Pothireddypadu Head Regulator to the foreshore of the Srisailam Reservoir and lining the existing SRBC/GNSS (Galeru Nagari Sujala Sravanthi) canal up to the Gorakallu Balancing Reservoir.
The Andhra Pradesh governmentâ€™s move naturally raised the hackles of KCR, who stated that his government would wage a legal battle for justice to his home state.
KCR on sticky wicket
The proposed lift irrigation scheme obviously provided ammunition to KCRâ€™s rivals in his home state who accused him of compromising with Jaganmohan Reddy at the cost of stateâ€™s interests.
Chandrashekhar Rao said that the construction of any scheme without the consent of the Apex councilâ€” comprising the Chief Ministers of both states as well as the Union Minister for Water Resourcesâ€” would be illegal.
The lift irrigation scheme is designed to utilise flood waters only from APâ€™s share in the Krishna without hurting the riparian rights of Telangana, asserted Bojja Dasaradharami Reddy, president of the Rayalaseema Saguneeti Sadhana Samithi.
The Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT) has allotted 811 tmc water in the Krishna river for Andhra Pradesh and 299 tmc of the allocation was set apart as Telanganaâ€™s share.
Sections of Opposition leaders in Telangana gave a â€˜Chalo Pothireddypaduâ€™ call on June 2, coinciding with the Formation Day of Telangana to expose the alleged unholy alliance between KCR and Jagan.
It may be recalled that the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), under the leadership of Chandrashekhar Rao, had launched massive protests when the Congress government headed by YS Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) increased the carrying capacity of the Pothireddypadu Head Regulator from 11,000 cusecs to 44,000 cusecs. Now, YSRâ€™s son, Jaganmohan Reddy, has proposed to increase its capacity up to 80,000 cusecs and KCR is mysteriously silent, his critics alleged.
Natureâ€™s bounty for the north or regional bias?
Telangana Jana Samithi founder and KCRâ€™s one-time ally in the separate statehood movement, Prof Kodandaram, apprehended that the â€˜illegalâ€™ tapping of the Krishna water by the Andhra government, feeding on the Srisailam and Nagarjuna Sagar left canal, would turn all of south Telangana, comprising Jogulamba Gadwal, Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda and Rangareddy districts into a desert.
The Palamuru-Rangareddy Lift Irrigation scheme, Kalwakurthy Lift Irrigation Scheme, Srisailam Left Bank Canal and Nagarjuna Sagar left canal have been designed to meet the irrigation and drinking water needs of south Telangana by feeding on the Krishna river. Kodandaram accused the Telangana Chief Minister of turning a blind eye to the water-starved south and evincing special interest for the north from where he (KCR) hails.
Telanganaâ€™s capital city Hyderabad and over 800 villages in Nalgonda may have to face acute drinking water shortage due to the alleged over-exploitation of water in the Krishna river by the Andhra government, the Opposition leaders warned.
Political rivals have also alleged that Chandrashekhar Rao spent a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore on the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme in north Telangana while letting the Palamuru-Rangareddy project in south Telangana die a natural death.
North Telangana falls under the perennial Godavari river. Thus, the region has become agriculturally prosperous with a slew of irrigation projects such as the Sri Rama Sagar Project, Sripada Yellampalli project, Devadula and Sitarama Lift Irrigation Schemes, Singur and Nizamsagar projects in addition to the mega Kaleshwaram project.
Naturally, north Telangana is at an advantage by virtue of being under the Godavari basin with 954 tmc as its share in the river waters. And, over 400 tmc in the share still remains unutilised by Telangana. But the story of south Telangana is different, with its fate linked to the dwindling inflows of the Krishna river.
It is unfair to attribute this natural phenomenon to the KCR government with accusations of regional bias, M Shyam Prasad Reddy, an irrigation expert, told TNM.
Gali Nagaraja is a freelance journalist who writes on the two Telugu states. Views expressed are the authorâ€™s own.