New Delhi: With the state of Andhra Pradesh announcing that it would complete construction of Indirasagar dam or Polavaram project by December 2021, the fate of a case in this regard pending with the Supreme Court is in limbo as Odisha hasn’t proceeded for early listing of the case.
The Supreme Court had last heard the matter in February this year and directed the Odisha government to file a rejoinder affidavit. Since then, the matter has not come up for hearing in the apex court.
Legally, Odisha can file an interlocutory application (IA) in the SC for early listing of Polavaram case as Andhra Pradesh has accelerated the pace of work. However, the state did not file any IA for early listing of the case.
Andhra Pradesh Irrigation Minister P Anil Kumar had November 17 inspected the construction work and stated that his government would complete Polavaram project by December 2021.
Significantly, the major submission of Odisha in the court was that the Polavaram project has been going on without proper backwater impact assessment survey and environment clearance. Advocate Shravan Kumar, appearing for one of the petitioners in the case, said that huge area of Odisha and Chhattisgarh will submerge after operation of Polavaram dam. He said that without proper backwater effect study, it is unclear as to how many tribals in Odisha will lose their land and homes. Earlier, Odisha had apprised the SC that Andhra Pradesh has changed the scope of the project from 36 lakh cusecs to 50 lakh cusecs of water which will have more impact on Odisha.
Odisha had submitted to the court that the construction of big embankments will result in backwater flooding causing submergence of huge area in the state.
According to Justice Bachawat tribunal award, the level of backwater effect in the state should not be more than 174 feet. However, Odisha submitted that Andhra Pradesh had itself admitted that the backwater effect will be 216 feet which will result in huge submergence of areas in Odisha.
Odisha had also sought details pertaining to the backwater effect in the state to conduct public hearing.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had written to Andhra Pradesh in January 2009 directing it to get a fresh environment clearance but the latter didn’t obtain that. The MoEF in February 2011 gave stop work order to Polavaram project. But later in April 2013, the MoEF kept stopwork order in abeyance for a period of six months which has been continuing year after year.
It is to be mentioned here that Odisha had in 2007 filed an original suite in the Supreme Court against the Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to build multipurpose Polavaram project on Godavari River citing that the project will lead to submergence of huge area in the state and many tribal people will lose their home and hearth.
Kuldeep Singh, OP