Just last week, Andhra’s ambitious river-linking project, titled the Pattiseema Lift Irrigation Scheme, found itself a place in the Limca Book of Records for being completed within a year.
The project interlinked the Godavari river and the Krishna river in Andhra’s West Godavari district.
It was declared “the first and fastest such irrigation project in the country to be completed on time, without any budget enhancements.”
However, the state government is now left red-faced, after a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) called it a colossal waste of public money and stated that the project’s cost outweighed its benefits.
According to reports, the CAG alleged that the government tweaked rules to favour contractors, while adding that the state had ‘wasted’ Rs 321 crore on the project.
The CAG also said that the state government didn’t even identify the beneficiaries of the project, before its completion.
“When the details of intended use of water under the scheme were called for, the Chief Engineer of the project replied (May 2016) that the list of industries had not been prepared and that the villages for domestic supply could not be identified since the distributary system for Polavaram Right Main Canal had not been finalised. The reply confirms that the project was taken up without identifying the users,” the CAG was quoted as saying.
Though there was no necessity, the CAG reportedly stated that construction patterns were changed, and this resulted in an additional burden of Rs 106 crore.
In what was claimed to be the first-ever river interlinking in south India, the project sought to meet the irrigation and drinking water needs of drought-prone Rayalaseema region in the state.
The state had said that about 3000 TMC of Godavari water flows away into the Bay of Bengal every year, while there was hardly enough water in the Krishna river. The state’s idea was to divert the surplus Godavari water into the Krishna basin and eventually into Rayalaseema.
The ‘Pattiseema’ Lift Irrigation Scheme, proposed to lift water from Godavari’s right bank, near the Pattisam village, and drop it into the Polavaram project’s right canal.
The project was designed to draw 120 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) water from Godavari and release it into the Krishna.
However, the project is not without controversy, as it is believed to have displaced several families, and faced stiff opposition from various political parties in the state.
Now, the damning report by the CAG has only added to it.