Koti ekarala magani , in Telugu, means One Crore-Acre wetlands. In Telangana, it has been a popular slogan in the irrigation sector. It has been embroiled in political controversy, the ruling TRS party bent on it, and several other parties opposing it. An objective, neutral evaluation is attempted here.
For the above goal to be realized , from Kaleswaram to Sriramsagar a series of water lifts are proposed. The power requirement for the above would be about 20,000MW, as per the estimates GENCO/TRANSCO. This includes a part for bore wells. Rough estimate of expenditure on different accounts, taking minimum values, would be as follows:
- Cost of power houses for generation of 20,000MW @Rs 6cr/MW == Rs 1,20,000 crores
- Cost of transmission and distribution of the above power Rs 1,20,000 crores
- Cost of coal to be burnt per day Rs 60 crores
(For generation of the above power, we have to burn about
2,00,000 MT of coal every day. Appr. Landed Cost of the
above coal @Rs 3000/MTx 200,000 MT= Rs.60,00,00,000)
- the cost of the lifting pumps and running cost is to be added to the above.
By burning coal as above, 1,40,000MT of ash would be generated daily
- Imagine the enormity of pollution on land, water and air, ambient temperature rise at the generating station villages, and finally the carbon footprint.
- Cost of paddy produced with all the above costs, when compared to the cost of paddy grown with gravity flow water would be many fold, surely more than double.
- Can our farmer sell the paddy at that price? If he cannot sell his produce, he will have no alternative other than suicide.
- If not, govt has to subsidise the crop every year, at an enormous cost to the exchequer?
Analysis of Alternative solutions
Grow paddy with all the above problems?
Unacceptably high price of the produce, subsidy to the farmer at an enormous cost to government, pollution, Disposal problems of Ash, Large carbon foot print, besides environmental problems. Lift irrigation may not be possible when monsoon fails.
Grow other traditional crops.
Larger profit to the farmer, Govt may spend the capital cost, running cost, subsidy etc. on some other development activity. Problems of pollution and large carbon footprint do not exist.
- With series of lifts along river Godavari, does not failure of any one lift paralyze the entire system?
- Is paddy/rice more nutritious than our Telangana traditional millet crops like Jowar, bajra, Ragi etc., which do not need so much water?
- Does paddy give higher price than our dry land crops like ground-nut, Til, Toor, Urad pulses?
- It may be noted that India is now importing huge quantities of edible oil (more than 50 to 60 percent of India’s needs), and considerable quantities of pulses (around 25% of India’s needs). Obviously there is greater demand for them waiting to be fulfilled. And they are more nutritious and more critical parts of our diet. It must also be noted that rain-fed crops like millets, oil seeds, pulses etc. are produced by poorer farmers and with far less quantity of water. Their production is beneficial not only to the to the poor farmers, but also to the society, the economy, and to public health.
Suggestions / Conclusion
On river Godavari let us have a series of small dams/retaining walls (as in china, Maharashtra etc) with gravity flows: where-ever possible we can grow paddy. In rest of the area we can grow our traditional crops Jowar, bajra, Ragi etc. millets, Toor, Urad pulses; Ground-nut (Palli), Til, oil seeds etc. For these crops we do not need huge amount of water. Already falling ground-water levels are giving us warnings. Let us pay heed to the warnings.
Let us save our State
- From exorbitant costs
- From high-carbon foot-print
- From ash/pollution/high ambient temperatures
- From suicides of farmers
- More Bondala Gaddalu (barren as well as burial grounds)
About feasibility and availability of water at different points in Godavari river have been discussed in the media so far. To my knowledge working costs, creation of pollution, advantages of dry-land agriculture have not been brought out prominently. Hence the above points are discussed in this brief write-up.
( The author is a Fellow of Institution of Engineers, FIE, Chief General Manager (Retd), Singareni Collieries, Kothagudem, Telangana State.
(Er.M.Sri Rama, from a family with 600 years of history in Telangana (Nalgonda and Khammam), worked for about 37 years in Singareni Coalmines, a PSU, at several places of four districts, in different capacities, bottom up, recognized for minimization of stores, energy saving measures he took while in service. Though he occupied one of the highest posts, and retired as CGM, he was a role model as one who maintained honesty, sincerity, hard-work and simplicity. Now chose to live in a small place like Bhadrachalam. Er.Sri Rama has intimate and vast knowledge in the area specified. Conservation and energy saving have been his cherished subjects.)