Hyderabad: From a mock ‘Kaleshwaram ATM’ installed by the Congress to lampoon the family of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao over alleged corruption, to visits of high profile leaders, the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project is one of the issues that has taken centre stage during the ongoing campaign for the Telangana Assembly polls.
No speech of any senior leader from opposition Congress or BJP on any platform is complete without a reference to the ‘sinking’ piers of the Kaleshwaram project.
The Kaleshwaram project was originally announced as the flagship irrigation project of the BRS government which has been in power in Telangana since formation of new state in 2014.
Touted to be the world’s largest multi-stage lift irrigation project, the BRS government always highlighted that the Kaleshwaram project led to a massive rise in agriculture production in the state with the expansion of irrigation facilities.
The stated objective of Kaleshwaram project, inaugurated in 2019, was to divert 195 TMC of water from the Godavari river to the backward areas in Telangana, according to official data.
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The project envisaged diversion of 195 TMC of Godavari water to Sripada Rao Yellampally project and creation of an additional ayacut of about 18.25 lakh acres in Adilabad, Karimnagar, and other districts, including 40 TMC of drinking water to several towns and cities of the state.
At an outlay of Rs 80,000 crore, the project includes three barrages at Medigadda, Annaram and Sundilla. Medigadda is the first barrage of the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project. It is located in the Jayashankar Bhupalpally district of Telangana. Located downstream are Annaram and Sundilla – the second and third barrages in the project.
These barrages are designed to lift water from the Godavari River to irrigate drought-prone areas in Telangana, providing water for agriculture and addressing the region’s water needs.
However, a row broke out last month after reports of piers of Medigadda barrage ‘sinking’ surfaced.
Union Minister and state BJP president G Kishan Reddy wrote to the Jal Shakti Ministry following reports of the damage to the barrage.
A team of the National Dam Safety Authority visited the site in the last week of October to conduct an examination of the reasons for the ‘sinking of the piers’ of the Medigadda barrage.
Meanwhile, the Congress and the BJP took on the BRS government over the alleged corruption in the Kaleshwaram project.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, during his poll campaign in Telangana last week, had displayed a mock ‘Kaleshwaram ATM’ made by his party to highlight the alleged corruption in the project.
Rahul Gandhi, who visited the Medigadda barrage on November 2, alleged that cracks have appeared in multiple pillars of the barrage due to shoddy construction.
“Kaleshwaram Project = KCR Family ATM. I visited the Medigadda barrage, which is a part of the corruption-ridden Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme in Telangana,” the Congress MP said on “X” (formerly Twitter).
Kishan Reddy had visited the Medigadda barrage along with other BJP leaders on November 4.
Indicating that if the BRS government is sincere in ascertaining the truth, Kishan Reddy had said the Centre is ready to order a CBI inquiry, if Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao writes a letter on the issue of “damage” to the Medigadda barrage of Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project.
“If the chief minister writes a letter to the Centre, a CBI inquiry will be ordered in just 15 minutes,” Reddy had said, when asked whether the Centre would order any inquiry on the issue.
The National Dam Safety Authority last week said the Medigadda Barrage has been severely compromised, rendering it useless unless fully rehabilitated.
In a letter to the Telangana chief secretary, NDSA member Sanjay Kumar Sibal had said the barrage under the present condition is “rendered useless until fully rehabilitated”.
However, the Telangana government has alleged that the National Dam Safety Authority has sent a communication to the state government “in haste” without checking details it submitted with regard to the Medigadda barrage.
Telangana Additional Chief Secretary (Irrigation) Rajat Kumar in a letter on November 4 to Sanjay Kumar Sibal said the department has studied the comments and suggestions comprehensively and noted that many of them are either “unsubstantiated or made without a full appreciation of the facts.”
BRS Working President K T Rama Rao, however, alleged that the NDSA report is politically motivated.
“Everybody knows that it is politically motivated. People understand the politics behind and what happens in Delhi. The BJP government has been notorious for abuse and targeting any state which is basically not politically aligned with them,” Rama Rao said.
“So people will see it in the right light. People see it as basically vindictive and politically motivated,” said Rama Rao, son of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.