Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project 2

 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:


  1. Cost of power houses for generation of 20,000MW @Rs 6cr/MW  ==      Rs  1,20,000 crores
  2. Cost of transmission and distribution of the above power        Rs 1,20,000 crores
  3. 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)

  1. the cost of the lifting pumps and running cost is to be added to the above.


Consequences –


By burning coal as above, 1,40,000MT of ash would be generated daily

  1. 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.)


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  1. K Babu Rao says:

    I agree in principle on the futility of energy intensive lift irrigation for growing paddy. Climate change excludes use of coal as an energy source. Creation of a huge coal fired power generating infra just to pump water for a limited period during rainy season when the water is available in the Godavari river is not a wise proposition. One does not need to be a great engineer to understand that. The decision is more political than informed by science or engineering.

    Author should have been careful in giving the quantity of ash generated. Is the ash content of Singareni coal 70%.? Then only the quantity of ash generated equals 1,40,000 T per day. Ash generated may be about 80,000 TPD. It may be noted that there is no possibility of 20,000 MW of coal fired power to be established in Telangana Projects in pipe line are to the extent of 8280 MW only.

  2. M. Sri Rama says:

    Author M. Sri Rama clarified as following in relation to comments by some friends, mainly by Dr. Babu Rao:
    Thanks for comments. I agree with Dr Babu Rao’s point.
    CIL and Sccl power grade coal ash percentage is indeed around 70. Some high-grade coal is being imported for blending with local coal, to meet this problem. In addition, to comply with regulations for power plants, various measures are taken to improve the ash content : Blending, sweetening, washing of coal; of course, these processes improve the ash content, though the cost escalates further, which is one of the points raised to say it becomes unsustainable.
    Power demand is an estimate taking a PLF of 80 percent and T and D losses of about 20 percent. Cost of imported pumps, pump houses, working costs, if taken into account, figures get further escalated.
    All figures are estimates based on assumptions, as there are many variables in capital costs, running costs, transport costs etc.; hence only indicative. Costs under different heads add to the burden and escalate the project estimates and ultimately power becomes too costly, thus making it more and more unsustainable.
    As per DPR of kaleswaram project alone O and M costs are RS 14000crs per annum, actuals would be more. We are talking of all lifts, not merely Kaleswaram. Economics vary case-to-case. This sort of development is not sustainable, both from economic and environment angles, sinking state. Let us make out a case against this. State is suitable for tank irrigation, Mission Kakatiya is good.
    Telangana is on Deccan Plateau, on elevation, and is ideal for dryland agriculture : ICRISAT suggestions are useful. Agri practices as in Hiware Bazar, a village in Maharashtra’s drought-prone Ahmednagar district that turned it into a prosperous village, need to be emulated. Water conservation technics, power conservation technics are necessary to be followed here. The land is ideal for example, for citrus family horticulture plantation, apart from millets, oil seeds, and pulses. Why should we go for water-logged crops like paddy and sugar cane? That is the author’s point of view.