Polavaram issue: State to seek explanation

Bhubaneswar: Days after the Central government allowed the Andhra Pradesh government to begin work on the controversial Polavaram project without notifying Odisha, the State government has said that it will seek answers from the Centre as to on what basis the approval was given.

After hearing from the Centre, the State government will take necessary steps, informed Water Resources secretary Pradip Jena. If necessary, the facts given by the Centre will be presented before the Supreme Court where the case is under consideration, he added.

Throwing laws to winds, the Centre has given Andhra Pradesh government a go-ahead to begin work on the multi-purpose river project. It has chosen to withdraw the ‘stop-work’ order on the project for an year though the mandatory public hearings on the matter is yet to be completed in Odisha and Chhattisgarh, the two riparian States which will be affected by the project. Moreover, the Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments have not even been informed about the decision.

On the request of Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, Union Forest and Environment minister Prakash Javdekar has given the consent to start work on the project. A letter and an executive order in this regard have reached the Andhra Pradesh government from the concerned Union joint secretary.

Odisha and Chhattisgarh are also the key stakeholders in the project as a large number of villages in both the States will be submerged by the project. As per the earlier directive, both the States were asked to conduct the public hearings on the matter within six months of the ‘Stop-Work’ order given to Andhra Pradesh. However, with the Centre taking such a unilateral decision, questions are being raised on its intentions.

Notably, the project on Godavari river was accorded approval in 2005 but the Andhra Pradesh government sought consent of Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments in 2010. The project is estimated to submerge 40 villages in seven panchayats of Malkangiri district in Odisha while many others in Chhattisgarh. Amid protests from both the States, the work on the project was stopped in 2011.

Odisha and Chhattisgarh governments have also moved the Supreme Court in this regard and the decision to start work on the project comes while the matter is still sub-judice