Orissa HC admits dam dispute petition

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By LALMOHAN PATNAIK in Cuttack
  • Published 22.10.09
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Cuttack, Oct. 22: The controversy over the Andhra Pradesh government-sanctioned Rs 16,700-crore Polavaram multipurpose project turned a full circle when Orissa High Court admitted a fresh PIL on the dispute this week.

Former CPM MLA from Bonai Laxman Munda filed the PIL alleging that the Andhra government was going ahead with the dam, ignoring a Orissa High Court’s verdict against it.

In March 2006, the court had ruled that the Andhra government could proceed with the project if it did not affect land in Orissa.

The order was passed after a PIL was submitted seeking judicial intervention against the dam over the Godavari in the Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh in view of the floods it would cause in tribal-dominated Malkangiri of Orissa. One of India’s first inter-state river-linking projects, Polavaram aims to take 80TMC of water from Godavari to Krishna. It was conceived in 1947, six years after the first survey was undertaken at a cost of Rs 129 crore.

The project has since been a dream for farmers in coastal Andhra Pradesh.

The government has been showcasing the project as the centre piece of its ambitious Rs 45,000 crore irrigation mission, as it will irrigate some 3lakh hectare and generate 960MW of power.

But the project has been a cause of dispute between Orissa and Andhra Pradesh as at least eight villages in Malkangiri would be submerged and thousands would be forced to shift from their native place.

The Orissa Legislative Assembly in August 2007 had unanimously adopted a resolution authorising the government to take all possible measures to safeguard the state interests in view of the damage.

The Assembly had also endorsed a resolution requesting the central government to revoke the project’s environmental clearance and issue directions to the Andhra government to reformulate its project in such a way that it does not affect the Orissa.

The Centre had granted environmental clearance to the project in October 25, 2005. Central Water Commission cleared the project in 2008 and renamed it as Indira Sagar (Polavaram) and accorded it a national status.

The fresh petition came for hearing earlier last week. After a preliminary hearing, a two-judge bench of Acting Chief Justice I.M. Quddusi and Justice B.K. Nayak issued notices to the Union government.

The bench has fixed November 9 as a fresh date for hearing.

Meanwhile, the Orissa government has filed a Supreme Court suit challenging the clearance and has roped in services of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorke, to prepare a report on the possible damage to be caused by the dam.

Orissa is opposed to grant national project status to Polavaram project as it is being built on an inter-state river, but only Andhra Pradesh stands to benefit from it, a senior official said.