Telangana: Memory Of Kaleshwaram, Polavaram Projects Is Coming Back To Haunt Musi River Redevelopment Initiative In Hyderabad

S Rajesh

May 22, 2024, 04:42 PM | Updated 04:42 PM IST

There are fears that the Musi river development project would turn into an 'ATM' of the Congress.
There are fears that the Musi river development project would turn into an 'ATM' of the Congress.
  • The shadow of Kaleshwaram and Polavaram projects looms over Hyderabad's ambitious Musi River redevelopment in Telangana.
  • The Congress government in Telangana, headed by Chief Minister Revanth Reddy, seems to be quite keen on going ahead with the Musi river development project in Hyderabad and its surroundings.

    The project, estimated to cost Rs 58000 crore, had come to national attention a few months ago when Reddy, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi (who was present on the stage) as ‘bada bhai’ (elder brother), had requested the central government’s assistance for the project.

    According to news reports, consultants have expressed interest and orders have been issued stating that new developments within 50 metres of the river would not be allowed.

    While the idea in itself is good — as who would not want a clean river front — the project has its fair share of sceptics given that the two mega projects in the two Telugu states, ie, the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project in Telangana and the Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh have been mired by allegations of corruption. 

    People this writer spoke to while covering the Hyderabad and Malkajgiri constituencies for the elections asked what is the guarantee that the Musi river development project will not turn out to be the ‘ATM’ of the Congress party like the Kaleshwaram project allegedly was for the Bharat Rashtra Samiti (BRS) and the family of former chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR). 

    They also doubted that the project would get completed in three years as targeted by the government.

    The Kaleshwaram project, which has seen a spending of over Rs 1 lakh crore, was in the limelight a few months ago, when a few piers in the Medigadda barrage, which is a part of the project, sank just four years after the inauguration.

    A report by the CAG that was tabled in the Telangana Assembly in February 2024, regarding the project stated that the project was economically unviable and the cost had escalated from the estimated Rs 81,911 crore to over Rs 1,47,427.41 crore. At the revised estimate, the Benefit-Cost Ratio (BCR) of the project was 0.52, meaning every rupee spent would yield only 52 paise.

    "Even after six years since re-engineering and incurring an expenditure of Rs 86,788.06 crore, the project has been able to create only 40,288 acres of new Command Area (CA) as against the targeted CA of 18.26 lakh acres. The project has not been able to provide water for drinking/industrial purposes as intended.

    “Though the department now expects the project to be completed by June 2024, with the present status of works and the volume of work yet to be done, completion of all works and achievement of full benefits contemplated under the project is likely to take many more years." 

    Further, it stated that the possibility of undue benefits to contractors of at least Rs 2,684.73 crore could not be ruled out.

    The Polavaram project, envisaged to transfer surplus water from the Godavari to the Krishna river, and fulfil requirements for drinking water, irrigation and electricity in the state hasn’t been completed yet. 

    Both Chandrababu Naidu and Jagan Mohan Reddy have been accused of corruption and delaying the project. 

    Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently stated that the project would be completed in two years once the NDA government comes to power in the Centre and the state.

    A BJP member who did not wish to be named said, “We are not opposed to the project. However we must focus on stopping the discharge of untreated sewage into the Musi river. They should be directed to sewage treatment plants. The existing ones should be run to the best of their capacity. And if needed new sewage treatment plants should be built. This should have been the first priority.”

    He added, “with the kind of RR tax being charged, there is no way people are going to believe that you would be able to deliver the project in a corruption free manner”. (RR tax refers to Revanth Reddy-Rahul Gandhi tax)

    The other question being asked is whether the project needs such a huge amount.

    Thus, while the project is good, and there are questions on the cost and whether the government would be able to deliver it, the onus is now on Revanth Reddy and the Congress to prove sceptics wrong. 

    Otherwise there would be no difference between the Musi and Kaleswaram projects or Reddy and KCR, and the only losers would be the people of Telangana.

    S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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