SC directs Centre to hold talks with states on Polavaram

Vijayawada: The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to hold talks with chief secretaries of AP, Telangana, Odisha and Chhattisgarh to resolve the issues of Polavaram irrigation project.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kaul, Abhay Oka and Vikram Nath held a hearing on a batch of petitions in New Delhi on Tuesday, complaining about violation of environmental laws and submergence of low-lying areas when River Godavari witnessed floods and also due to the formation of backwaters from the project.

Odisha complained that several agency areas were getting submerged due to execution of the project and alleged several changes were effected in the project’s design without getting requisite approval and even keeping in abeyance the ‘Stop Work Order’ issued by the Centre, for a long time.

Telangana submitted that the recent floods in Godavari resulted in inundation of parts of temple town Badrachalam and sought strengthening of the flood banks to avoid this. TS maintained that it was not against execution of the project as per norms.

Other petitioners explained to the court the alleged violation of environmental norms in execution of the project and submergence of several tribal habitations in the erstwhile Godavari districts due to construction of the Cofferdam when the river witnessed floods recently.

Andhra Pradesh submitted to the court that though it had been asking both the Chhattisgarh and Odisha governments to conduct public hearings on submergence of certain areas in their respective states with an assurance to compensate suitably, there was no proper response from both the governments.

AP counsel informed the court that the state had already spent nearly Rs 20,000 crore on execution of the project.

The court observed that the Union ministries of Jal Shakti and Environment and Forests must play a pioneering role and ordered the Centre to hold a meeting with the chief secretaries of stakeholder states to resolve the contentious issues in a month’s time. The court asked for filing of the reports before it.

The court also suggested a meeting of chief ministers of these states to iron out the issues related to Polavaram and posted the case for next hearing on Dec. 7.

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