Facing fund crunch, government mulling to raise Almatti dam height in phased manner

BIJAPUR; 09 Mar:  The exorbitant amount required for taking up relief and rehabilitation works after raising Almatti dam height, is now apparently forcing the government to look for alternate ways to complete the task within the availability of funds.

According to sources, the government is contemplating raisings the height of the dam in a phased manner which will allow the government to save funds on relief and rehabilitation projects.

The increasing the height from present 519 meters to 524 meters under Upper Krishna Project (UKP) stage-III, is expected to be taken up in three phases.

The government can start the raising of height of the dam only after the Central Government issuing gazette notification in this regard.

The Supreme Court allowed Karnataka to use additional 173 tmcft of water after raising dam height. The government is preparing a plan before the central government issuing notification.

In order to increase the height of the Almatti Dam – the project cost is estimated Rs 52,000 crore four years ago. Under the same project it includes the land acquisition cost and rehabilitation of 22 villages and around one lakh families. Since the project has been declared the government, irrespective of parties at the helm of affairs, is failing to take-up the work reasoning the huge project cost.

Meanwhile, the state government is also pushing the UKP-III phase to get it announced as a national project with urging the central government to bear about 90 percent of the total project cost. However, it has failed to yield results so far. On the other hand, the state government led by Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa assured that he will complete the project at any cost before the end of his regime.

So, the state government is planning to take-up the works in different phases. According to sources, “The top officials and experts have submitted a report to the government for the first phase of the work. Where it is planning to increase the height of the dam to 521m from 519.6m at an estimated project cost of about Rs 10,000 crore. This will help to increase the water storage capacity up to 35 tmc and irrigate over 2.3 lakh hectares.”

Confirming about the state government plan, a top official from the water resource department, said that, “It is true that the talks are being held in the government to increase the height of water reservoir to 521m in first phase, 523m in second phase and 524m in the last phase. The main reason behind this is the project cost. In the first phase there is a very meager amount of work in terms of land acquisition and there will be no necessity of shifting any villages. However, the work can be taken up only after the gazette is published,” affirmed an official, who wished to be unnamed.

Opposing the government’s plan, former water resource minister M B Patil said that, “The government’s top priority should be to utilize its share of water in the earliest. It is not a good decision and I will oppose taking up the works in a phased manner. As the government promised it has to announce funds and take up the work in a single phase. Where did the promise made by CM B S Yediyurappa go? asked Patil.   

Ashok Chandaragi, Irrigation Activist said that looking at the current financial conditions of the state government, it will be appropriate to take up the works in a phased manner. It is the best option available before the government. It will also reduce the burden to the government and subsequently over 2.36 lakh hectares can be irrigated. If it has to complete the work in next couple of years the government has to reserve at least Rs 25,000 crore in the budget”, said Chandaragi.

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