Polavaram Project

Polavaram irrigation project is a multipurpose irrigation project across Godavari river in West Godavari district with its reservoirs spreading across states of Chhattisgarh and Orissa as well. It is a national project which implies that its implementation is monitored by the Central Water Commission. The project is slated to be complete by 2019.

The project endeavours to develop irrigation, drinking water facilities and hydropower to regions of East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam, Krishna and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Polavaram National Irrigation Project

History in brief

It was conceived under the National River Interlinking project proposed during the colonial period, in the 19th century by Sir Arthur Cotton. It was also endorsed by Dr. K.L Rao who in 1970, who was the irrigation minister as a part of the National Water Grid . It was also recommended by the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal, which in 1980 finalized its award after which states of AP, Chhattisgarh and Odisha signed an agreement to begin construction on the project. Foundations of the project were laid in 1980 but work on it soon got stalled and could resume only in 2004. In 2014, it was declared a national project.

Cost of the Polavaram project

While 13,000 Crores have been spent already on the project, it requires another 39,000 Cr for completion. The sum will be spent on construction, land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement.

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  • Andhra Pradesh has some of the most fertile districts in the country like East & West Godavari and also some severe drought -affected districts like Anantapur in Rayalaseema region.
  • The project seeks to transfer surplus waters from Godavari basin to Krishna river basin that is a water deficit. Thus, it seeks to address the challenges of flooding and droughts witnessed in the respective basins.
  • This would also prevent the unutilized waters to the tune of 3000 TMCs from the Godavari basin from draining into the Bay of Bengal.
  • It would facilitate irrigation in the water-scarce regions of Andhra Pradesh such as Rayalseema. This, in turn would reduce rain dependence of agriculture and help in addressing agrarian distress. The project is aligned with the ambitious target of doubling farm incomes .
  • Irrigation projects help in overcoming the challenges posed to farmers by the spatio-temporal variability of Indian monsoons. It also plays an instrumental role in improving farm yields.
  • The potential of the Godavari and its tributaries remain underutilized. As a result, Godavari basin witnesses frequent flooding ( Andhra Pradesh has suffered 26% of flood damage in India during 1953-2011). The project, will help reduce the economic, social and humanitarian costs incurred due to floods.

Opposition to the Polavaram project

  • Displacement- Polavaram project was opposed on the ground that it would amount to the displacement of nearly 300 villages. Of the displaced population, tribals constitute 50%. With inadequate resettlement and rehabilitation measures, this has severe implications on the socio-economic life of the displaced populations.
  • Alienation Displacement is a major cause of disenchantment among locals and this creates fertile conditions for spread of insurgency.
  • Changes to the ecology of the region Environmental activists argue that the project will submerge forests, wildlife sanctuaries and as a result disturb the ecology.
  • River Ecology Transferring waters from Godavari basin would alter the flow/ discharge in the river and this would adversely impact the biodiversity supported by Godavari basin. It may impact inland fishing, which is an important source of livelihood for the people.
  • Water Shortage It is also argued that Godavari basin is not a surplus river basin and with growing demand of water for irrigation, drinking and sanitation, industries, rising pollution of water bodies and climate changes, regions along Godavari basin may soon be facing water scarcity.
  • Opposition by Chhattisgarh and Odisha Both the states have petitioned the Supreme court against the project on apprehensions that villages in the territory of these states might be submerged by the project. They have alleged that public hearings in the regions have not been conducted and that work on the project has started without requisite approvals from the Ministry of environment.
  • Too costly The project will heavily burden the exchequer and low-cost alternatives for flood and drought prevention should be explored.


The Polavaram project has been a dream project for those living in Andhra Pradesh. The project seeks to benefit all the districts of Andhra Pradesh and make the state both flood free and drought-free at the same time. It will have a flood discharge capacity of 36 Lakh cusecs. The concerns raised by the project can be resolved through ensuring resettlement of those displaced and by undertaking simultaneous measures to protect local ecology and vegetation.

National Project explanation

What does being a national project imply

  • The project will receive 90% of the grant from the centre for drinking and irrigation water components of the project.
  • Establishment and administrative costs, however, will be borne by the state government.

Criteria for selection as National Project

  • where planning and early completion of the project is necessary in the interest of the country.
  • Inter-State projects which are dragging on due to non-resolution of Inter-State issues relating to sharing of costs, rehabilitation, aspects of power production etc.,
  • Intra-State projects with the additional potential of more than 2,00,000 hectare (ha) and with no dispute regarding sharing of water and where hydrology is established.

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