Bachawat  Award is outdated and makes the Polavaram  project hazardous


According to the Central Empowered Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to examine the implications of the Polavaram project proposed by the Government of Andhra Pradesh strong objections were raised by Orissa and Chattisgarh state Governments and several individuals against the project and they wanted it to be revised. 

Agreement were entered into in 1978 by the 3 states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa regarding an FRL/MWL of +150ft on the condition that the back water curve due to the project during floods should not exceed +150ft above mean sea level.  Ultimately the agreement was revised on 2-4-1980 and it was accepted by the tribunal on 3-4-1980 and the Government of India accepted this agreement. 

 According to paragraph 80 on page-26 of the Final Order of the Bachawat Tribunal clause-VI deals with Polavaram dam and is reproduced here.


1)   In accordance with the statement dated the 3rd April, 1980 submitted on-behalf of the Government of India, annexed hereto and marked Annexure “H” (See below for details), we direct that --

(i)                  the Polavaram Project shall be cleared by the Central Water Commission as expeditiously as possible for FRL/MWL +150ft;

(ii)                the matter of design of the dam and its operation schedule is left to the Central Water Commission which it shall decide keeping in view all the Agreements between the parties, including the Agreement dated the 2nd April 1980(see below for Details) as far as practicable; and

(iii)               if there is to be any change in the operation schedule as indicated in the Agreement dated the 2nd April, 1980  it shall be made only after consultation with the states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.  The design aspects shall, however, be left entirely to the Central Water Commission.

2)         The State of < xml="true" prefix="st1" namespace="" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags">Andhra Pradesh shall observe all safeguards including the safeguards mentioned in sub-clause (1) above regarding the Polavaram project, as directed by the Central Water Commission.


ANNEXURE-H (Para-163 of  Page 65 of the Bachawat Tribunal Report)

Statement submitted by Counsel for the Government of India in the Ministry of Energy and Irrigation (Department of Irrigation) and the Central Water Commission.

The Government of India in the Ministry of Energy & Irrigation   (Department of Irrigation) and the Central Water Commission are willing to submit to the following order by the Tribunal:

The Polavaram Project shall be cleared by the Central Water Commission as expeditiously as possible for FRL/MWL. 150ft.

The matter of design of the dam and its operation schedule shall be left to the Central Water Commission, which they shall decide keeping in view all the Agreements between the parties, including the Agreement of 2nd April 1980 filed to day as far as practicable..

 ( For details see below Annexure-G , Para-163 of page-63 of Bachawat Report)   ..

If there is to be any change in the operation schedule as indicated in the Agreement of 2nd April, 1980 it shall be made only after consultation with the  states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.  The design aspects shall, however, be left entirely to the Central Water Commission.



3-4-1980                                                          Counsel for the Department of Irrigation

And Central Water Commission.


ANNEXURE-G (Para-163 of page 63 of Bachawat Tribunal Report)

Agreement dated the 2nd April, 1980 between the States of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.

To enable clearance of Polavaram Project, the following is agreed to:                                

(1)               The Polavaram Project spillway shall be designed for a flood discharging capacity  of 36 (thirty six) lakh cusecs at pond level of RL +140ft (One hundred and forty)  and not less than 20 (twenty) lakh cusecs at pond level of RL +130ft (One hundred and thirty).” 

(2)               The pond level shall not be kept higher than RL+145ft (One hundred and forty five) in the month of June if the inflow into the Polavaram reservoir exceeds 3 ( three) lakh cusecs”. ………etc.,[continued]


 In order to protect the interests of the people, their lands and property above +150ft level in Chattisgarh and Orissa likely to be affected by inundation floods including backwater effects due to Polavaram necessary protective embankments with adequate drainage sluices shall be constructed and maintained at the cost of the Polavaram project.  However the upper states may exercise an option to demand compensation instead of protective embankment works and the compensation for any damage or injury as estimated by the District Collectors of the upper states will be paid by the A.P.State.

The agreement deals with protective embankments with adequate drainage sluice gates to protect lands and villages likely to be submerged above FRL +150ft in Orissa and Chattisgarh along with alternative for the states to opt for compensation for the purpose.  This agreement was submitted to Bachawat Tribunal on 3-4-1980 along with another statement of the Government of India supporting this joint agreement and they have been included in the final order of the tribunal.  The Orissa state Government is strongly objecting to the Polavaram project and states as follows “the Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal Report (Bachawat Award) deals with agreement between the Government of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa signed during 1978 and 1980. As per the above, maximum submergence in Orissa territory was not to exceed RL+150 ft. due to all effects including back water effects. With a change of the project design due to a change in reservoir level, the present project is factually a different project and does not correlate with the original agreement. Therefore the Polavaram project is required to be reformulated without any submergence in Orissa's territory”.  The Government of Chattisgarh is also strongly opposing Polavaram project as stated below “The participation states of “the participation of the State of Chattisgarh in the Polavaram River Valley Project and the rights and obligations ensuing there under emanates from the agreements entered into by the State of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and the Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal Award. In terms of the said agreement the State has agreed to the construction of Polavaram project so that maximum submergence in Chattisgarh did not exceed +RL 150 ft. due to all  effects including back water effect.

       The project was to be designed for the maximum probable flood in consultation with the Central Water Commission. However, the reports show that the construction of the dam in its present design, backwater level in Chattisgarh will go beyond the agreed +RL 150 ft. which is a breach of the agreed terms between the two States.

     In view of the above it is necessary and essential that the project should be re-examined in the light of the changes made and work out an alternative plan mutually agreed by all the affected States;

ii)      As per the final order of the Tribunal, the design of the dam and its operation schedule is to be decided by the Central Water Commission. Any change in the operation schedule is to be made only after consultation with all the three concerned States. However, neither the Central Water Commission has accorded the approval nor any consultation with the State of Chattisgarh has taken place. The State of Chattisgarh reserves its rights to agitate its grievance relating to the violation of the agreement and the award in appropriate forums


Strong objections against the Polavaram project have also been raised by Dr.P.SivaramKrishna, Director of an Environmental Organiation, SAKTI, Sri.R.Vidya Sagara Rao, an eminent former Chief Engineer of the Central Water Commission and Sri.Ramachandra Rao, a noted Advocate of Andhra Pradesh.  The  opponents of the project are  strongly demanding for a revision of the Polavaram project on the grounds of highly defective and incomplete environmental impact analysis report and also the non-preparation of detailed risk assessment reports disaster management plans, Environmental management plans and the detailed feasibility reports as stipulated under items11 and 12 of Schedule-II of the Application Form for preparation of Environmental Impact Assessment report under Notification dt.27-1-1994 under Environmental under Environmental Protection Rules as per Environmental Protection Act 1986.  These opponents are emphasizing that many experts including Dr.K.L.Rao the former Union Minister for Irrigation and Power who warned that Polavaram dam will collapse because of hazardous spillway design and poor geological features of the site.  In a special interview published in the noted daily English news paper Indian Express dt.30-4-1983 Dr.K.L.Rao  lashed at the unsfe spillway design for Polavaram in the following terms Eminent Irrigation Expert  , Dr.K.L.Rao WARNS AGAINST  SAFETY OF POLAVARAM DAM

Extract from Indian Express (Vijayawada 1-5-1983)

“In an exclusive interview to Express News Service Dr.Rao who is taking rest at Nellore said yesterday that there was not enough water in the Krishna to take up any new projects upstream without affecting the existing ones downstream. 


Referring to claims of the people of Telangana region and the districts of Cuddapah and

Chittoor for Krishna waters through Srisailam right and left canals and extending the benefits of Telugu Ganga to more areas Dr.Rao said “They are fighting for water that is not there”


Dr.Rao ruled out the possibility of diverting surplus Godavari waters to the Krishna owing to defective designing of the Polavaram project and high cost involved in the Sriramapada Sagar project.


Only 1800ft spillway was provided in the Polavaram project to clear 40 lakh cusecs of flood waters in the Godavari as against 13,000 ft long Dhowlaiswaram anicut designed by Sir Arthur Cotton.   Even Prakasam barrage was designed to 6,280 ft. long though the flood water would not be more than 12 lakh cusecs, Dr.Rao said.

 It was simple arithmetic to understand that the Polavaram design would not work, he said.”

 NOTE :-According to Dr.A.Mohana Krishnan's book on "History of Irrigation development of Andhra Pradesh[INCID,March,2004]Prakasam Barrage has Design Flood Discharge of 33,984 Cumecs[12 lakh cusecs] with length of barrage of 1139 meters[3760 ft.] and  the Cotton Barrage has Design Flood discharge of 91,475 Cumecs [32 lakh cusecs]with length of barrage of 3,599 meters[11,880 ft.]

They also emphasize that the state-of-art design for irrigation project followed by most of the countries in the world is based on International standards and these standards are as follows:




Q (Cumecs, m3/s)


Return period



1  (PMF)

1,000,000 years




10,000 years



0.3 (PMF)

1,000 years



0.2 (PMF)

150 years



0.17 (PMF)

100 years






PMF Value





1.0 PMF





0.5 PMF





0.25 PMF

100 years flood

Note:  Before 1900 design flow was based upon collection of data on high water marks on buildings and structures for calculating peak flood and spillways were designed by using a multiple of this known maximum flood as a factor of safety.  But some dams failed because engineers used for spillway design the previous floods that are indicating of the maximum flood likely to experienced by the dam during its design life.





Recommended design flood


Spillways for major and medium projects with storages more than 60Mm3

a) PMF determined by unit hydrograph and probable maximum precipitation (PMP)

b)     If (a) is not applicable or possible flood-frequency method with T = 1000years


Permanent barrage and minor dams with capacity less than 60Mm3

a) SPF determined by unit hydrograph and standard project storm (SPS) which is usually the largest recorded storm in the region.

b)    Flood with a return period of 100 years (a) or (b)  whichever gives higher value


Pickup weirs

Flood with a return period of 100 or 50 years depending on the importance  of the project.


Aqueducts   (a) Waterway

(b) Foundations and free board

Flood with T = 50 years

Flood with T = 100 years


Project with scanty or inadequate data

Empirical formulae

Ref: CWC India “Estimation of Design Flood Peak”, Report No.1/73, New Delhi, 1973.


The opponents are arguing that on the basis of the latest spillway design criteria used for dams in other countries the Central Water Commission is also following their own standards as presented in the above tables.  They argued that the normal rule of thumb is to design the spillway for a peak flood that is 1.5 to 2 times more than the previously recorded flood and this thumb rule is not followed in the case of Polavaram.  The opponents argued that the peak flood discharge recorded in 1970 and 1966 varied from 20 to 22 lakhs cusecs and on this basis the engineers of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa advised their Chief Ministers to incorporate in the agreement of 2-4-1980 , 36 lakhs cusecs as the peak flood discharge recorded in August 1986 in Godavari was 35 lakhs cusecs and hence the peak flood for spillway design of Polavaram project must be fixed at about 54 lakhs cusecs.  It is reported in the News papers that on the advise of the A.P.State Government has recently revised the spillway design flood to about 48 lakhs cusecs.  Consequently the revised peak floods is increased by about 30 to 33% of the previous figure of 36lakhs cusecs for which the 3 states of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa have entered into an agreement on 2-4-1980 as accepted by the Bachawat Tribunal.  In view of this enormous increase in Probable Maximum Flood being used for spillway design, the whole nature of the project has completely changed and all the previous estimates made for back water curve, number of villages likely to be submerged and extent of Forest lands under inundation and the population to be resettled and the costs of rehabilitation have to be completely enhanced on a substantial scale with the result that the cost of the project will abnormally exceed as compared with the benefits will be conferred by the project and hence the costs far exceed the benefits and make the feasibility of the project unacceptable even from the point of view of Economy. The opponents argued that although the dam break analysis has been done by one of the wings of the Union Ministry of Water Resources namely, the National Institute of Hydrology at Roorkee, their work as presented in the Environmental Impact Assessment report is drastically reduced upto a length of about 30km downstream of the Polavaram dam upto Rajahmundry.   But the catastrophic damage due to an inevitable collapse of the dam due to bombing by terrorists, earthquakes, construction and foundation failures or human failures or collapse of dams in the upstream side of Polavaram will result in inundation of dozens of cities and thousands of  villages covering a population of about 45 lakhs in most fertile deltas of East Godavari and West Godavari districts.  If a risk analysis is made the A.P.State Government will come to understand how difficult and almost impossible it will be to plan for an effective disaster management plan to protect the lives of billions of animal and human population and save the most valuable crops, industries and human habitations of inestimable value.  Since the state Government is refused to take the responsibility to prepare these crucial reports they can never arrive at a meaningful cost benefit ratio and consequently they can not think of alternate project proposals which can be implemented to attain the same economic goals of agriculture developments by supplying the Godavari water for drinking water and agricultural needs of millions of farmers and farm labourers in the drought prone regions of Rayalaseema and Telangana besides stabilizing the existing irrigation systems of Godavari, Krishna and Pennar deltas.  Hence the opponents of the Polavaram dam are demanding for a fresh appraisal of  the Polavaram project to utilize the enormous quantity of river waters wastefully joining the Bay of Bengal for diversion to all the regions of Andhra Pradesh including North coastal Andhra, Telangana and Rayalaseema.  If the present engineers and officials of the state Government are found to be non-cooperative with the state Government to chalk out  new projects in place of the Polavaram project for optimal utilization of Godavari waters the independent engineering experts and the intellectuals of the state will come forward to help the state Government for this purpose.

Population to  live in perpetual terror of Polavaram dam burst and likely to be killed

in  the Rural Mandals of < xml="true" prefix="st1" namespace="" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags">East  and West Godavari< xml="true" prefix="o" namespace="" ns="urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">  Districts

Mandals of E. Godavari


Mandals of WG Dt.














































































































Displacement in the Catchment Area:Accoprding to the report by Umamaheswari[Front-line,Aug-Sept,2006] there will be extensive displacement due to submersion due to flooding in the upstream side of the polavaram project as per out-dated estimates based on a Spill-way design Flood of 36 lakhs cusecs for a flood  return period of 500-years which was revised in september to 49.5 lakhs cusecs.

According to

Umamaheswari"The Polavaram project implies the submergence of around 300 villages in nine mandals in three districts and around 1.5 lakh acres (60,000 hectares) of cultivable land, and that will affect the lives of around 2,37,000 people. The total forest land that will get submerged is 3,223 ha (having 69,225 productive trees, valued at Rs.21.82 crores). It will also impact adversely the fauna, such as the tiger, the panther, the bison, the bear, the wild cat, and a host of bird species.

Of the population that would be displaced, the percentage of women far outnumbers men. According to a report prepared by the Centre for Economics and Social Studies (CESS), 67.3 per cent of the S.C. women would be affected (as against 55.2 per cent of the men); 79.3 per cent of the S.T. women (as against 69.4 per cent men), and 58.1 per cent of Backward Classes (B.C.) women (against 41.9 per cent of the men). Among others 37 per cent of the women will be affected as against 25.4 per cent of the men. Orissa Chief Minister says that 13 settlements will be adversely affected according to his objection to polavaram project:

Agricultural loss itself will be phenomenal, taking into account merely agricultural produce in the submergence area. According to the Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham, cotton is grown on over 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) and gives an average of 150 persondays of work. Paddy is grown in 10,000 acres and each acre gives 75 person days of work. Tobacco is grown on 6,000 acres (2,400 ha) and gives 250 persondays of work an acre. And one is not even mentioning loss of other livelihoods. " confused state of affairs on Polavaram  project ----AUR EK SAPNA[ Extract]

polavaram Dam is controversial and is opposed by varied sections in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere in the country. The claims of Andhra Pradesh government are questioned and the manner in which it has carried out the works has raised serious doubts about the importance it gives to any national norms and transparency in a project that would have irreversible implications to ecology and people.

It threatens to displace a Koya tribe that’s no less than cultural genocide.

The project with huge costs and implications to people of three states and ecology needs central agencies to oversee and ensure the trust reposed by all state governments and the citizens of this country. The project requires a thorough reexamination and national debate in the best democratic manner owing its size, adverse implications to the most vulnerable sections of our society- the adivasis- costs and inter state nature of the project.

The project is unpopular as the dam is associated with violation of existing norms. The AP government has initiated works on 22 July 2004 by giving administrative approvals for all components of the project. In March 2005 the contractors have commenced the works for canals. Public Hearing was conducting in five districts of AP on 10 September 2006 without any notification in Chattisgarh and Orissa.!

Questionable claims and disputed interests

The dam is alleged to be based on all shaky claims and without any scientific basis. GO Ms No 96 Dt 10.09.2004 and G) Ms No 158 Dt 29.08.2005 claim to irrigate 23.21 lakh acre including existing irrigated ayacut by changing the design of Canals while the Detailed Project Report submitted to Central Water Commission stated that the project is designed to irrigate 7.21 lakh acres.

Different figures to different agencies from time to time have raised deep suspicions of the intentions and the actual magnitude of the displacement costs and the adverse implications. Besides, seriousness of the authorities towards the courts and the central government agencies entrusted with the powers and responsibilities of ensuring that the inter-sate agreements are honored by AP government.

Out of 7,20,000 acres ayacut already 5,47,000 acres is covered under various projects (Yeleru, Torigedda LIS, Chagalnadu LIS, Nagarjuna Sagar Left canal, Kovvada, Tadipudi & Pushkaram LIS). Much of the claims of Indira Sagar project is duplication and is only going to be massive waste of public money. Tadipudi and Pushkaram LIS alone cover 4.27 lakh acres! Net benefits of the project are estimated to be a mere 12,000 acres as the land lost to this project is 1,85,000 cares (120000 under Polavaram reservoir, 35,000 acres fro excavation of canals, 30,000 acres for industrialization and urbanization) and already proposed ayacut of 547,000 acres under varied projects.

Displacement underestimated and scope for social justice displaced

AP government mentions of 299 villages (276 in AP, 7 in Orissa & 16 in Chattisgarh) displacing a total population of 1,95,357. Villages forming part of the scheduled area are 297 villages. Eexcept 2 villages in East Godavari of AP all other villages threatened of submergence are in the Scheduled Areas of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Orissa. The data of AP government is old and many villages have not been included in the submergible villages. The data provided by the AP is contested by activists and scholars. Studies of M Bharath Bhushan & R Murali, CESS, among others have found AP govt has underestimated and underplayed the the losses.

About 3,30,000 people with Scheduled Tribes constituting around 60% are likely to be affected with the contemplated backwaters level of + 183 feet. It is estimated that about 400 villages will be affected. Massive displacement of adivasis is bound to have irreversible ecological losses with uphill migration of the adivasis and deforestation in the Eastern Ghats. Ecology of Orissa, Chattisgarh and AP is threatened of the uphill migration by displaced tribals. Media reported of the tribal villages already identifying pockets in forest as alternative sites.

It is in sensitive area and displacement of adivasi in large numbers is bound to make the situation volatile in “dandakaranya”.

Ecological concerns Wildlife and biodiversity concerns of Eastern Ghats are beyond state boundaries. There are approximately 10 tigers in the Papikonda sanctuary and about 5 tigers in the affected area as there is abundant water even during the summer. This is the richest forest area in AP in terms of biodiversity and is mostly moist deciduous forest. This forest forms a contiguous forest corridor with the forests in Orissa and Chattisgarh

Flood disaster is underestimated

Much against the AP government’s submission to the GWDT that severe floods of 25 lakh cusecs occurs once in 48 years, it is seen such floods occur within twenty years with such floods occurring in 1986 and 2006! Flood water level (Back water level) at Badrachalam has reached at RL 172 this year with a flood discharge of 20 to 23 lakh cusecs without any Dam. If the proposed Dam is constructed with the height off wall about 84 ft. above the River Bed Level at Polavaram obstructing the Flow would, create heading of the levels which may reach more than +200 ft., at Badrachalam and same may be at Konta of Chattisgarh and Motu of Orissa. Owing to which the submergence of Forest, private land, and villages adversely affected and people displaced would be far above the estimates of the AP government.

Central agencies failing to ensure norms

The Government of A P has commenced the Head Works and the Canal Works before the Site Clearance that was granted on 19-09-2005 and Environment Clearances were obtained on 25-10-2005. Public Hearing was conducted on 10-10-2005 and within 8 days, the A.P. Pollution Control Board has given “No Objection Certificate” on 18-10-2005. The very next day i.e. on 19-10-2005 the Expert Committee of MOE&F has granted Environmental Clearance. It was approved by the MOE&F on 25-10-2005, after the construction of the Project commenced in the Month of March, 2005.

As per the norms the Government is required to hold the Public Hearings in all the areas of submergence due to construction of the Project. But the Public Hearing were not held in the submergence areas of Chhattisgarh and Orissa till date and as on today the Pollution Control Boards of those two states have not given “No Objection Certificate”.