By JR Janumpalli
(The author is a retired government official and Telangana activist)
There was a round-table conference on the Kaleshwaram project yet again on August 26. The cost-benefit factor of last time was passé. This time, the goal post changed. It’s technical feasibility now. Their concern with technical feasibility is understandable and relevant too. It certainly needs to be discussed and firmed up for such an extraordinary and technologically complex project. But it should be discussed strictly from a technological perspective only.
Political overtones and participation of politicians in it will smother its objectivity. The real discussion on technical feasibility should be left to the people who know the subject. This time there was some more information on reverse pumping, shifting of the main barrage from Tummidihatti to Medigadda and availability of the quantum of water at Medigadda.
Move Beyond DPR
Their insistence to confine the discussion to the detailed project report (DPR) alone as the agenda of the meeting appeared strange. The project has travelled past the DPR and has obtained the clearances from the competent authority, the Central Water Commission (CWC). The DPR is a government proposal submitted to the CWC to get the approval for the project. It is provisional and is a pre-feasibility report. It is not the final scheduled scheme. The DPR is subject to changes. The CWC has the mandate and is supposed to have the necessary expertise to scrutinise the DPR and demand changes, if needed. Or, it can also reject the DPR as a whole if it feels it is not feasible.
In this instant case, one can expect that the CWC exercised its due diligence as it is a special project. Now the CWC has become a proxy to the project. Therefore, it becomes incumbent to read the DPR along with the CWC clearances to understand the technical feasibility. It will also be meaningful if the CWC is made to answer some of the questions raised by TJAC.
As the cliche goes — it is always better to hear straight from the horse’s mouth. Instead, forcing to confine it only to the untested DPR is not correct. It makes the whole round-table discussion redundant. There is no reason to believe that the CWC can be less circumspect towards the project and gives clearance in a routine way. The CWC has its own machinery to know the relevant information on projects and does not depend only on DPRs.
Since the Central government is not of the same party and not even its ally, there is no reason to believe that the CWC politically favoured Telangana. Since the DPR was scrutinised and clearances were given by the CWC, the ball lies in the court of CWC to explain its feasibility. Wapcos Limited, which was said to be the main consultant for the project, can be a better source to clear the doubts on the technical aspects.
Participation of the CWC, Wapcos and other technical specialists could have turned the round-table discussion meaningful. Or an expert on such lift irrigation projects could have been called to give his opinion. But it did not appear so. It looked like a show in a political campaign.
The meeting was predominantly political with all the opposition parties in the State, including the nascent TJS. The discourse was organised by TJAC. Though there were a few members of Telangana Engineer’s forum, it was more of a political meeting than a technical conference with TJAC technical personnel taking time to present their case and calling the shots.
The Engineer’s forum members were not allowed to speak fully on the technical aspects and were given less than 20% of the time. They were not even allowed to complete their answers when they tried to explain the reasons for re-engineering and that the DPR was not final and could be revised. But, they were shouted down by TJAC and political party representatives with their numerical dominance. It was like killing the messenger.
In such an atmosphere and political setting, the real intent of the conference got lost. It looked like a political shadow-boxing was taking place. We need to have a better discussion forum to know the intricate technical problem of the project. Certainly, not these political meetings.
Earlier in the united State, the very same politics made us forego our rights for water. We were stopped from using most water that legitimately belonged to us for decades. We need a definitive new approach in the new State.
The Congress has the necessary wherewithal to engage experts on such projects. They can hire an expert and ask them to present the real technical problems in the scheme. The State BJP can make the participation of Wapcos and CWC possible through their central government. Questions have been raised on the CWC clearance and the State BJP through its high command can get the necessary answers from the CWC.
It is absolutely important to know the technical feasibility of such a huge project. But in doing so, there is a need for political parties to exhibit some altruism instead of playing routine polemics and political one-upmanship.
It is also necessary for the State government to make the details of technical feasibility public with all the CWC clearances to remove the doubts of the people. Since it is past the tentative DPR stage and the CWC clearances are under its belt, there should not be any problem in doing so. Alternatively, the government itself can organise a technical round-table conference with all the stakeholders. This is important to convince the people and or to make corrections, if needed.
Faultless working of the project is more important than the gamesmanship of political parties and the government. This round-table on the project cannot be the last. There can be and should be more. Let us hope that in these meetings they discuss the technical feasibility with the relevant technical discussion, and with the experts on the subject.
Source: Telangana Today