While all the project works have come to a standstill and labour is going back to their native places everywhere across the country due to the Corona pandemic, the site of the Polavaram project is looking quite different as works are going on with full pace. Most of the works have now come to a critical stage for this prestigious project of the Government of Andhra Pradesh. Amidst the challenges posed by Corona, construction works for the world’s biggest Spillway have gained further momentum. Apart from the works related to spill channel, approach channel, pilot channel, earth cum rockfill dam and 1, 2, 3 gap works, the hitherto stopped hydro-electric power station works are also re-initiated.
Though the previous government led by Mr. Chandrababu Naidu repeatedly announced that it would be completed by 2018, at the ground level project works went on with at a snail pace. Except for the Spillway and cofferdam works, no other works initiated. After the YSRCP came into the power, Chief Minister Mr. YS Jagan Mohan Reddy cancelled all the earlier works and called for new tenders, that resulted into reducing project costs. The government also initiated several measures to speed up the works on site.
The new contracting company Megha Engineering Infrastructure Limited (MEIL) is implementing the project works in a systematic way keeping in mind the target deadlines. The Spillway of this project is being constructed in a way to facilitate a flow of 50 lakh Cusecs flood water. Currently, the world’s biggest Spillway belongs to the Chinese Three Gorges project that has a capacity of 47 lakh Cusecs. MEIL is constructing Polavaram Spillway, with 3 lakh Cusecs more capacity than the Three Gorge project.
When MEIL initiated the works in November 2019, there was a huge quantity of floodwater stagnated both in front and backside of the reservoir construction site. This was due to non-engineering methods employed by the earlier company. It took a lot of time to lift almost 4 TMCs of stagnated floodwater from the construction site. Usually March-May period is the peak season for this kind of project works, but due to Corona pandemic, project works at many places across the country have come to a standstill. Polavaram project also experienced that negative effect a bit as labour went back to their native villages.
Reverse migration of labour
Nearly 2000 migrant labour working for the Polavaram Project went back to their native states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa, compelling the company to continue works with the available meagre labour. With the firm determination of State government and MEIL, there was significant progress in works related to Spillway, spill channel, hydro-electric station, except some slower pace during November-December due to the water shortage. While 206 Cubic Metre (CuM) work done in November, it was 5628 Cum in December. Concrete works related to the spillway and spill channel got pace since January as there was 20639 Cum work in that month, followed by 32443 Cum in February, 36129 Cum in March.
State government and MEIL took all care to continue that pace amidst the Corona fear during April and May. Corona had its effect not only on labour, but it also affected the supply of steel, cement and other raw material. As the entire transport system came to a standstill during April and May, it resulted in several obstacles for the project works. State government and MEIL had to strive hard to keep the pace of the works. The company organized a medical camp for labour in association with the district health department. All the required tests are being done regularly in this camp. Labour was provided with nutritious food to boost immunity and special incentives given to them for working during Corona crisis.
Initiation of Spill channel works
During the previous government, no work initiated for the Spill channel. These works started only after the new government took over under the leadership of YS Jaganmohan Reddy. During April, 18714 Cubic Metres of concrete work for Spillway and 9511 Cubic metres of concrete work for Spill channel completed. Almost double work done during May. In fact, it was the month in which the highest work was done since the re-initiation of the project works, that too amidst the Corona crisis. Nearly 2,01,025 CuM of work related to Spillway and Spill Channel completed from November 2019 to 8, June 2020. Though some labour went back to their native places, nearly 3000 cum work done during May. A total of 1681 people, including contract labour, low-level staff and engineers worked during this month. Significant quantum of work for the Spillway was done only due to the continuous involvement of 232 contract labour and nearly 200 project staff. For Spill channel, 301 contract labour and staff worked during the month.
Works like soil excavation, removal of big boulders, bund construction, hydro-electric power station works and earth cum rockfill dam are critical for this project, but they were completely neglected during the previous government. Priority was given for works like Spillway concrete, lower cofferdam, upper cofferdam etc. Any project would be able to fulfil its objective only when all the relevant works completed in time. But the effort was put on only for constructing upper cofferdam, with an intention to store water in the project by 2018. It is in contrary to the established engineering principles and procedures. The earlier government even could not complete these works. After the YSRCP government came into power, MEIL continued the spillway concrete works and simultaneously initiated Vibro-compaction works for constructing earth cum rockfill dam. Specifically, soil excavation picked the momentum and construction of concrete block for Spill Channel has reached a critical stage. These works were started in February this year and by 08, June, MEIL could complete Spillway 121647, Spill Channel 79378 CuM of concrete work. Works for powerhouse construction completely stalled during the previous government. A hydro-electric power station with a capacity of 960 MW is to established for this project. For this, 12 vertical kaplang turbines, each with a capacity of 80 MW, need to be established. While Chandrababu government completely neglected these works, the present government is giving equal priority to them, resulting in increased momentum in blasting works for constructing hydro-electric power station.
Now the works related to Coffer Dam – Gap 1, Earth cum Rockfill dam- Gap 2, Vibro compaction works and sand filling – Gap 3 are going on with full pace. Nearly 22 lakh CuM soil work and 10 lakh CuM sand filling is still to do in Gap-2 works. For the spill channel, out of 42 lakh CuM boulder removal, nearly 17 lakh CuM work is yet to be done. So far, 8,96,416 CuM works completed. Out of these works, the sand filling 2,78,000 CuM, 2,16,265CuM powerhouse, 64,816 CuM of blasting works have completed.
Faith on Megha bringing labour back
Labour who went to their native places is again slowly returning to join in the works. Faith on the state government and MEIL is bringing them back to the project location. All these returning labour tested in special medical camps, and they are allowed to work only after negative results. So far, almost 1000 people have returned, and this number expected to reach 1800 by the end of this week. As the labour availability is increasing, plans are afoot to increase the quantum of work per day, from present 3000 CuM to 4000 CuM. And MEIL is planning to take up works in a way that there would be no problem even if there is flood during the coming rainy season.