Gadkari Backs Polavaram

Notwithstanding Odisha’s strong protest, the Centre has assured the Andhra Pradesh government that the controversial Polavaram project would be completed by next year.

The assurance was given by none other than Union Minister for Water Resources, Nitin Gadkari to whom Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had last week approched to stop Polavaram project till completion of the pending case in the Supreme Court.
Mr.Gadkari has given assurance to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu over phone, sources said. Mr.Naidu is presently on a visit to South Korea.
He  has also given a similar assurance to a delegation of Andhra Pradesh Congress leaders.
The Union Minister’s assurance comes nearly a week after Mr.Naidu saying that he would "hand over the project", in the wake of the Centre recently writing to the Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary for stalling forthwith the tenders called by the State Govenrment."If they (Centre) want, we will stop the process. If they continue with this type of stand, I will greet them with folded hands and hand over the project," Mr.Naidu had told reporters on November 30. 
On November 29, Naveen Patnaik had wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him not to allow the construction of the Polavaram project until all the pending issues are settled in the Supreme Court.

Mr.Patnaik, in his letter, also expressed his "deep concern" over the "sacrifice" of Odisha's interests in the project without addressing its "legitimate concerns" 

"... It is my earnest request not to allow the construction of the Polavaram project until all the pending issues are finally settled in the Hon'ble Apex Court," he wrote in the letter.

"I am to express my deep concern in the manner in which the interests of Odisha are sacrificed in the matter of the Polavaram project without addressing our legitimate concerns.

It is unfortunate that the construction of the project is going on at a rapid pace despite the pendency of the matter in the Hon'ble Supreme Court and also despite my previous letters," he said.

Though, the Polavaram project has been declared as a national project in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, it does not qualify to be considered as a national project as it does not satisfy the national standards or norms for it, Patnaik said.

"If the project is allowed to be completed before the resolution of all the pending issues, it will cause a permanent injury to the interest of the state of Odisha and its people," the chief minister wrote in the letter.

Patnaik said, in his previous letters earlier, he had expressed deep concern regarding submergence of a large number of villages in Odisha, majority of them inhabited by scheduled tribes, if the Polavaram project in its current form is permitted to proceed.

"The project's construction has been taken up by the Government of Andhra Pradesh unilaterally much before obtaining the CWC clearance, based on plans or design that are in violation of the Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal (SWDT) award and as such not agreed to by the states of Chhattishgarh and Odisha," Mr.Patnaik said.

The chief minister's letter said the project works are going on without conducting any public hearing in Odisha, which is mandatory requirement for getting any environmental clearance.

The issue of public hearing is pending in the court, Mr.Patnaik said, adding "it is surprising that neither the concerns of those most affected by the project are considered nor their involvement is sought." 

Mr.Patnaik said that there have been a "clear violation" in obtaining environmental and forest clearance by the environment and forest ministry, resettlement and rehabilitation clearance by the ministry of tribal affairs and the technical advisory committee clearance by the Central Water Commission (CWC).

The Chief Minister said that the Polavaram project can be reformulated as per the GWDT award without causing large scale submergence in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattishgarh, taking into consideration the constructed project operating in the command are of Polavaram, like the Pattiseema project and others.

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