Telangana minister promises strong action against ‘corruption’ in Kaleshwaram project

 The Telangana government will take strong action on the reports of National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA), Enforcement & Vigilance (E&V) and Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Kaleshwaram project, State Irrigation Minister N. Uttam Kumar Reddy said on Saturday.

He cited three reports while speaking about the Kaleshwaram project during his power point presentation on irrigation projects in the State Legislative Assembly.

He stated that Medigadda barrage, which is the heart of Kaleshwaram project, has reached a collapsing stage due to poor design, poor construction and poor operation & maintenance (O&M).

The minister revealed that the National Dam Safety Authority (NDSA) has suggested the government not to fill Medigadda and two other reservoirs Annaram and Sundilla, which are all part of Kaleshwaram.

“The leakage has also started in Annaram barrage since yesterday. We have urgently called the NDSA and they communicated to us to dewater the barrage immediately,” he said.

He also informed the House that the government has approached NDSA on the issue of water storage and how to move forward on the three barrages.

The minister said the piers of Medigadda sank on October 21, 2023 and from that day till December 7, when the Congress government was formed, then Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao did not speak a word though he was also holding the irrigation portfolio.

Terming Kaleshwaram, the biggest scam in the irrigation sector in independent India, the minister said those who headed the irrigation department in the previous governments should hang their heads in shame and apologise to the people of Telangana.

The minister, who twice visited Medigadda since assuming office in December last year, said serious damage was caused to Medigadda.

Displaying photographs to highlight the extent of damage, he said a barrage which was meant to last for 100 years has reached a stage of complete collapse within three years of construction.

The minister displayed photographs of the crack in pier. Responding to statements of some Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leaders demanding the government to handover the barrage to them for repair, Uttam Kumar Reddy said, “You constructed with faulty design which led to the present situation. What right do you have to make this demand,” he said.

He mentioned that the tender for Medigadda barrage was called and works awarded for Rs 1,800 crore but the actual amount spent was Rs 4,500 crore. “This never happened in the irrigation sector anywhere in independent India,” he said.

He said the NDSA, in its report, stated that the damage to Medigadda occurred due to a combination of issues involving planning, design, quality control and operation and maintenance. There was construction deficiency due to lack of stringent quality control.

The NDSA concluded that Medigadda barrage was rendered useless. It also pointed out that two more barrages Annaram and Sundilla were constructed with similar design and construction methodologies making them prone to similar failure modes.

“Signs of boiling already exist downstream of Annaram barrage, a precursor to failure,” he quoted the NDSA report.

The irrigation minister said after Congress came to power, it ordered an inquiry by the Vigilance and Enforcement Department. It said in its report, the irrigation department has not carried out the work as per the specified sequential manner. Many deviation approvals were issued which were not supported by any inspection noted of the higher authorities

The barrage was inaugurated on June 19, 2019 by then chief minister but since then there was no operational and maintenance (O&M) checks.

According to E&V report, the upstream and downstream overburden was not trimmed to the specified levels as per the recommendations of the 3D model study.

The irrigation minister said the Comptroller and Auditor General of India’s report on Kaleshwaram, tabled in the Assembly on February 15, has shocked the nation.

The CAG stated that the cost of Kaleshwaram project is now likely to exceed Rs. 1,47,427.41 crore, as against the cost of Rs. 81,911.01 crore projected to the Central Water Commission (CWC).

Uttam Kumar Reddy said since the CAG’s report was based on the 2021-22 figures, the cost of the project may go up to Rs.2 lakh crore.

Terming the Kaleshwaram project economically unviable, the CAG said that every rupee spent on the project would yield only 52 paise.

The report also highlighted improper planning and undue haste in award of works. He said the CAG also spoke of undue payments made to contractors.

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