The Telangana government recently reduced kharif crop production estimates for 2017-18 by 54% due to a long dry spell and drought-like conditions in some parts of the state. Such conditions are the reason why Telangana is investing heavily in irrigation and drinking water projects.
The under-construction Kaleshwaram Project, where seven workers died when the roof of a tunnel partially collapsed two weeks ago, is claimed to be the lifeline of north Telangana. Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao said the project would transform the targeted 13 districts, which are often prone to drought-like conditions and water scarcity.
The project was originally floated by late chief minister Dr Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. Current CM K Chandrasekhar Rao got the plans redesigned and expanded the project’s scope.
The Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project, being built at Rs 80,000 crore, is one of the country’s biggest water projects. It envisages building three barrages across the Godavari, harnessing 160-180 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) floodwater during June-October, and routing it — through a system of gravity canals, pipelines and tunnels, lifts and pump-houses — to 20 reservoirs that are being excavated for a total storage capacity of 145 TMC. From the reservoirs will spread a network of canals across the 13 districts.
“The water will irrigate over 18 lakh acres in 13 districts and stabilise another 18 lakh acres that have irrigation facilities but are prone to drought,” said Telangana’s engineer-in-chief (irrigation) C Murlidhar.
A team of 5,000 — civil, electrical, mechanical — mostly from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha is working on the project.
The network of tunnels runs about 81 km, the longest of them 21 km. The underground water tunnels are wide enough to allow two trucks to pass each other. The canal network covers 1,531 km, taking water as far away as Narketpally in Nalgonda, 250 km from the source. While seven lifts will take water from the Godavari at the three barrages, the other 14 are being erected at strategic locations.
The highest point to which water will be lifted is Kondapochamma reservoir in Gajwel, 64 km from Hyderabad and 620 m above mean sea level, said Sridhar Deshpande, officer on special duty in the irrigation department. The project will provide 10 TMC as drinking water to villages along the route, 30 TMC as drinking water to Hyderabad and Secunderabad, and 16 TMC to industries.
The largest reservoir is Komarelli Mallana Sagar in Medak (capacity 50 TMC). Nearly 1,200 families of Vemulghat village will be displaced and they have been demanding better rehabilitation and compensation.
The project cost of Rs 80,000 crore includes acquisition, relief and rehabilitation; the 4700 MW that will power the lifts will cost another Rs 8,000 crore every year.
“Whatever the cost, farmers and people of Telangana should benefit. The projects will help farmers harvest two crops and drinking water problems will be mitigated. That is what we want to make the state — a golden Telangana,” Irrigation Minister Harish Rao said.