Rayalaseema Lift Irriagation Project– a game-changer for parched districts

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Though most of the Chief Ministers either before after the bifurcation of the undivided Andhra Pradesh hailed from the Rayalaseema, the region could but rarely enjoy the fruits of development. Quenching the thirst of the parched swathes of Rayalaseema has always been a distant dream. There never was a sincere and concerted attempt to develop the region. It was left to late YS Rajasekhara Reddy to put in place schemes that augmented the irrigational capabilities of Pothireddypadu and new projects like Handri Neeva and Galeru-Nagari. Following the footsteps of his illustrious father, chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has now taken up the prestigious Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Project to give a face-lift to the Rayalaseema region. The project, which has overcome teething technical and inter-state troubles, is now in the tendering stage.A rare project that stands testimony to CM’s farsightedness

This is not just the largest project in Rayalaseema, but also the largest in the state. Just as the Kaleshwaram project, which when completed would pump 3 TMC a day (2 TMC being pumped now and 1 TMC under construction), the Rayalaseema LIP can pump huge amount of water. This is bigger than the Handri Neeva, till now considered the biggest in AP, that has a pumping capacity of 40 TMC per year. Even projects like Pattiseema, Muchchumarri, Kondaveeti Vagu and Purushottapatnam have already been completed. The Rayalaseema LIP, being constructed at Sangameshwara in Kurnool district, is radically different from the other projects. Soon after the innovative idea of the Rayalaseema LIP flashed in his mind, he undertook the scientific and technical feasibility studies and has now readied up the government for undertaking the project. When completed, the project will irrigate large swathes of perennially parched lands in Rayalaseema and will help the drought-stricken masses of the region.

Permanent drought despite perennial Krishna
The demand for diverting Krishna water for the drinking and irrigational needs of Rayalaseema is quite old. Yet, none could come up with with a concrete action plan. No government had any clue on how to tackle the daunting challenge. Despite ever flowing Krishna, Tungabhadra and the vast Penna which soaks the plains extending from Karnataka to Nellore, the regional has remained perennially parched. Lack of water availability has led to the silting of British-era KC Canal. Not even a half of the capacity of the upper and lower Tungabhadra Canal gets served and even when in spate, the river Tungabhadra is unable to irrigate the command area. Though SRBC – Telugu Ganga scheme of 1990, Handri-Neeva, Muchumarri, KC Canal link from Srisailam, PABR and Chitravathi were completed, there was no change in the ground situation. Drought continues to stalk the region. Even the raise in the Pothireddypadu capacities to 44000 cusecs has failed to serve the purpose.

Water flows waste into Sea
The Rayalaseema is entitled to a total of 114 TMC from various sources including the Telugu Ganga of Srisailam project (29 TMCs), SRBC (19 TMC),Galeru-Nagari-GNSS (39), drinking water supply lines to Chennai (15 TMC), TBPHLC (10 ) and the evaporation loss (3 TMCs). For this, an approach canal has been built in the back area of the reservoir. For this, water has to be released through the Pothireddypadu head regulator from the Srisailam Right Main Canal. This can happen only when the water level in the Srisailam reservoir is over 841 feet. The water is released into the Telugu Ganga, KC Canal and SRBC canals through Bankicherla Cross regulator from the SRMC. As part of the efforts aimed at capacity improvement, YSR had enabled the release of 44000 cusecs. As a result, flood water utilisation has gone up considerably in the Rayalaseema region. Last year at least 179.30 tmc was diverted not just to Rayalaseema but also to Nellore and Chennai. Yet, large tracts have continued to remain parched in Rayalaseema and a large amount of water is flowing waste into the sea during the flood season.

The hard fact is that with the exception of the last couple of years, the allocated 114 TMC supplied via Pothireddypadu has never been fully used. A perusal of the water utilisation data from 2004-5 till 2019-20 is enough to understand this. In 2004-5, only 56.51 of the 114 TMC could be used. In 2005-06, only 78.49 TMC, in 2007-08, 48.05 TMC and in 2009-10, 60.14 TMC were used. It is to be noted that 2009-10 witnessed one of the worst floods. Yet, the utilisation was sub-optimal. Similarly, in 2012-13, the utilisation was at its lowest. Only 22.49 TMCs could be utilised. The utilisation In 2014-15 was 59.17 TMC, while in 2015-16a paltry 0.95 TMC was released.. In the last four years, the utilisation was 67.44, 91.70,115.40, 179.30 TMCs respectively.

Rayalaseema fails to capitalise on floods
If one peruses the water usage from the Pothireddypadu, it becomes clear as daylight that except in 2018-19 and 2019-20, the utilisation was always sub-optimal. Thus Rayalaseema could not derive any benefit from these floods. In 2018-20, there were six spells of flood inflows into Srisailam. As a result, 889 TMC were released through the Spillway. Of this, 600 TMC flowed into the sea. At the same time, in all the four Rayalaseema districts, there was water scarcity. Despite having a storing capacity of 120 TMC, the water went waste. The prime reason for this is the capacity inadequacies of the Pothireddypadu Head Regulator. Normally, 7000 cusecs should be released into the Pothireddypadu Head Regulator from Srisailam at 854 feet water level. Similarly, 44000 cusecs should be released at 881 feet level. This is proving problematic and the flood water could be harnessed only for 15 to 20 days during the flood season. As a result, the Rayalaseema is unable to use the flood water. In another disconcerting development, the water storage capacity of the reservoir is coming down due to constant silting. At FRL, the Srisailam should hold up to 308 TMC, But, these days it is holding just about 215 TMC. This means, at least 93 TMC, which otherwise could have been stored hand there been no silting, is flowing waste. It is in light of all these that YS Jagan Mohan Reddy had decided to divert the flood water. The experts have supported this idea of the CM to the fullest. The result of this churning is the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Project (RLIP).

397 megawatt pumping centre
Under the RLC, an estimated 3 TMC (34722 cusecs) would be lifted every day during the flood season from the Krishna river into the Rayalaseema region. The project would be taken up at Sangameshwar at the confluence of Krishna and Tungabhadra. The pumping capacity of the centre would be 3 TMC. Pumping would be done into the SRMC, which is 4 km from Pothireddpadu. This would enable water supply to Rayalaseema, Nellore and Prakasam. During flood season, the scheme would even pump out 8 TMC of water to quench Rayalaseema’s thirst. This would be achieved through 125 metre pipelines. The water would then be released through the delivery cisterns. It will travel for a distance of 22 km to reach NRMC and thence to Telugu Ganga, SRBC and KC Canal. For this, a 4.5 km long canal would be dug between the project pump house and Sangameshwara and Muchumarri. The pump house will have 12 machines with pumps and motors of 33.04 megawatt capacity, each pumping 81.93 cumecs to a height of 39.60 metres
This project will consume 397 megawatts of power. This is the highest power consumption for any power project in AP and thus will become unique in its own respect. The pumps will become functional at 243 feet water level and delivery would be possible at 273 feet level. An estimated 12000 acres of land needs to be acquired for the project.

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