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Polavaram Multipurpose Project, Andhra Pradesh, India


The Polavaram multipurpose project has been under consideration since 1943. It was conceived as a storage scheme for the Godavari. The dam will come up at Polavaram, in between three districts of Andhra Pradesh, namely East Godavari, West Godavari and Khammam. In 1982, the Central Water Commission gave hydrological clearance to the project after the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal recognized the need to go ahead with the project. In August 2005, the Andhra Pradesh High Court issued a stay order on all work related to the Polavaram project, on grounds that the government had not obtained the necessary clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The project was revived in October 2005, after the environment clearance was received.

According to the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), the project will displace around 200,000 people in the three states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. Ou of them, at least 150,000 are tribals (the submergence area includes 170 habitations of Koya and Kondareddy tribals), and the rest mostly dalits dependent on minor forest produce for their livelihood [1].

Orissa government has objected to the dams construction on grounds that it will cause large-scale submergence and displacement in several villages and agricultural lands in the state [1]. Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has addressed a letter to Planning Commission of India not to grant revised investment clearance to the controversial multi-purpose project. Orissa government is claiming that a large portion of Malkangiri district would be submerged if the Polavaram project was allowed in the neighbouring state. So, Orissa government has filed a suit in the Supreme Court challenging the Ministry of Environment and Forests environmental clearance. Orissa state administration also opposed to the R&R (rehabilitation and resettlement) clearance accorded by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MOTA) [2]. The Supreme Court has appointed an expert to inspect the Polavaram dam to ascertain whether it was being constructed in terms of the Godavari Tribunal Award [3, 5, 6].

Basic Data

NamePolavaram Multipurpose Project, Andhra Pradesh, India
ProvinceAndhra Pradesh
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific Commodities

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsThe project, estimated to cost between Rs 9,072 crore and Rs 13,500 crore, is expected to provide irrigation to 7.21 lakh acres of land, supply water for industrial and drinking purposes to the city of Visakhapatnam and to 540 villages, and generate 960 MW of power. The dam will irrigate 291,000 hectares in Visakhapatnam and East Godavari districts through one canal and West Godavari and Krishna districts through another. It is also seen as part of the riverlinking project, as it links the Godavari River with the Krishna River by diverting 80 tmc of the latters waters [1]. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project says 276 villages will be affected; an estimated 177,275 people live in these villages. The Polavaram Project Environmental Impact Appraisal Report of 1985 expected 150,697 people to be displaced in 226 villages [4]
Project Area (in hectares)15000
Level of Investment (in USD)2184466000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population400000
Start Date1980
Company Names or State EnterprisesSoma Constructions and China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) from China
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Orissa, Government of Chattisgarh, The State Department of Irrigation, AP, Government of Andhra Pradesh, National Water Development Agency [NWDA]
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersPolavaram Veterika Ummadi Vedika (Anti-Polavaram Joint Front), SEEDS, Mr. Pagano Didla, 'People Against Polavaram Project' (PAPP): an inter-State committee comprising several tribal organisations of AP, Chhattisgarh and Odisha., Pro-Telangana Political Parties

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of Peoples Movements, who presented a joint memorandum to the chief secretary demanding that construction of the Polavaram dam be stopped [1]
Forms of MobilizationInvolvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
People Against Polavaram Project' (PAPP), an inter-State committee comprising several tribal organisations of AP, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. In 2012, around 500 adivasis from Malkangiri (Odisha), Sukma (Chhattisgarh) and Khammam (AP) took part in 'Jal Deeksha' similar to 'Jal Satyagraha' at the confluence of Sabari and Godavari rivers at Kunavaram in Khammam district [7].


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of AlternativesEnvironmental clearance given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for any river valley project must include a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). An Environmental Public Hearing (EPH) must also be held to provide legal space to the public to voice their concerns and opinions [1]

Public hearing must take place properly and the concerns of the local people, who are mainly tribal people - the compensation for them, their rehabilitation [5]

Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.According to Andhra Pradesh chief minister, almost all of the 1.95 lakh people who will be displaced due to the Polavaram project will be given an equal amount of irrigated land. This improved package offers land-to-land compensation to tribals, with the land being provided as close to the original area as possible. Compensation will also be given to the landless. But there are a number of drawbacks in the rehabilitation plan, the main one being that many people in the area do not have title deeds to their land and will therefore will not be entitled to receive any compensation [1].

Sources and Materials


Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (2013)

Interstate River Dispute Act 1965

Godavari Water Dispute Tribunal


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Perspectives on Polavaram, a Major Irrigation Project on Godavari edited by Biksham Gujja, Vinod Goud


[1] Polavaram hydel project: another dam, more displacement

[2] Odisha opposes construction of Polavaram dam

[3] SC to seek expert opinion on Polavaram dam

[4] Why Polavaram is a pointless project

[5] Polavaram dam: Andhra vs Orissa

[6] Odisha opposes construction of Polavaram dam

[7] Protesters hold jal satyagraha against Polavaram project

Centre gives nod to Polavaram dam project

Media Links

Polavaram dam: Andhra vs Orissa

Special Story On Polavaram Project (in Telegu)

Transstroy bags Polavaram Project contract - Tv9

Meta Information

ContributorSwapan Kumar Patra
Last update08/04/2014