Saturday, 22 August 2009
Death of a river? Will Polavaram project kill the river Sabari?
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The picturesque Sabari river that originates in the hilly jungles of the tribal Bastar in Chastisgarh will lose its basic character if the State government goes ahead with the controversial Polavaram project across the river Godavari.
Sabari flows for about 30 km in Andhra Pradesh after entering the State from Chattisgarh and joins the river Godavari at Kunavaram in Khammam district. Once the Polavaram project is constructed, the backwards will extend up to the Chattisgarh border wiping out the Sabari from the face of Andhra Pradesh.
"Polavaram will not only affect the lovely Papi Hills, part of Eastern Ghats, with their unique flora and fauna, but also damage the Sabari river system. The river system of other tributaries will also be hit badly affecting the overall Godavari hydrological cycle," argues irrigation expert Nitin Desai.
The backwaters of Polavaram will not allow the Sabari to drain into the Godavari when the dam is full. The overall length of the Sabari will be reduced by about 30 kilometres which will severely upset the ecology of this tribal river.
According to environmental activist Bhiksham Gujja, even the river system of Sileru that flows through the Eastern Ghats and joins the Sabari on Andhra Pradesh-Chattisgarh-Orissa borders will suffer heavily. "The river rises as the Machkund in the Eastern Ghats in northeastern Andhra Pradesh. Leaving the Machkund reservoir, it flows as the Sileru parallel to the mountain ranges at an elevation of 2,000-3,000 feet in a northeast-to-southwest direction to empty into the Sabari," he says.
Since the Sileru joins the Sabari at the AP border, the backwaters of Polavaram will also prevent Sileru from emptying fully into Sabari.
The Sabari river is not only important from environment point of view but also from the historical perspective. The river was mentioned in several of the ancient texts of India.
A team of irrigation experts and environmentalists on Wednesday visited the Polavaram dam site and studied the impact of the dam on the environment, wildlife as well as the tributaries of the Godavari. Former CWC member Vidyasagar is of the view that there would be larger environmental havoc if the natural river system was disturbed. In the case of Polavaram, not only the Godavari river is exploited, but also its tributaries.
"Generally, only one river is affected by dam. But in the case of Polavaram several tributaries along with the main river Godavari are affected. This is something unpardonable," Vidyasagar observes.
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