Centre to call tripartite meet on Polavaram project

New Delhi: The Centre will convene a meeting of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh for expediting environment clearances for Polavaram irrigation and hydel project in Andhra Pradesh, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Friday.

Ramesh said he would call a meeting of chief ministers of the states to resolve the differences among them over the project.

Although the forest clearance was given to the about Rs 17,000 crore Indirasagar multi-purpose project in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, the Orissa and the Chhattisgarh governments have to make embankments to protect submergence of villages. This is a legal requirement, he said.

He asked BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu to persuade Chhattisgarh Chief Minister to hold public hearing on the project as per the law. The Orissa government also has to do the same.

A show cause notice was also issued as to why public hearing has not been done, he said.

The two states, as per the environment and forest laws have to build protective embankments on river Sabri, Ramesh said.

He said the other solution was to reduce the height of the dam. "That is the best solution. We have to build protective embankments. I will call a meeting to find a way out," he said.

Ramesh found himself in the middle of arguments and counter arguments by members from Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, who were pursuing the interests of their respective states.

While those from Andhra Pradesh including M V Mysura Reddy (TDP) and Jesudasu Seelam (Cong) wanted fast clearance for the project, Pyarimohan Mohapatra (BJD) blamed the Central Water Commission (CWC) for increasing the height of the dam with the "connivance" of the AP government.

"The CWC had, without involving Orissa and Chhattisgarh and with connivance of Principal Secretary of Andhra Pradesh agreed to increase the height of the dam," Mohapatra said.

To this, Ramesh said his understanding was that all the three states were in agreement on the dam height. Since the member has raised doubt he would check the records, Ramesh said adding the interest of Orissa and Chhattisgarh cannot be ignored.

"I am a Union Minister. I don`t represent a state," he said, adding interest of all the states has to be protected.

"I can not ignore two very important states where submergence will take place," he said.

This is a sensitive matter since the interest of eight villages of Malkangiri in Orissa and four villages of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, affected by left-wing extremism, is involved.

On the demand for national status to the project, Ramesh said the matter fell under the purview of the Ministry of Water Resources, which is considering it.

The project which began in April 2006 was expected to be completed by February 2007. The work has been stalled because of environmental and forest clearances.

The Polavaram project was conceived as a multipurpose scheme for providing irrigation to 4.36 lakh hectares, water supply to towns and villages en route and generating hydel power with an installed capacity of 960 MW.