HYDERABAD: A month after the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation system's Kannepalli and Annaram pump houses went underwater due to floods in the Godavari, no one knows who will foot the repair costs, which are expected to run into hundreds of crores.
Though the special chief secretary for irrigation, Rajat Kumar, stated shortly after the July 14 flooding that repairs would cost around `25 crore, sources say this figure is nothing more than a figment of hopeful imagination. This estimate is nowhere near the actual amount of money needed to restore the pump houses, as the worst-hit Kannepalli pump house is still being cleaned up and damages assessed, sources told Deccan Chronicle.
In addition to pump repairs, costs will be incurred for replacing control electronics and associated systems, as well as reconstructing a collapsed wall in the Kannepalli pump house. Despite being four weeks into the disaster following the mid-July flooding, neither the state government nor MEIL, the company that built the facilities, have commented on the extent of damage or potential repair timelines. Worse, the government has thrown a thick veil of secrecy around the two pump houses, and no one is being allowed near them except irrigation department officials, contractor’s staff, and engineers.
The question of who will foot the bill, and who will bear responsibility for the disaster “is a sensitive subject”, according to sources said, especially given the state government’s repeated claims that the KLIS project is the brainchild of Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, and that he was hands on during every stage of planning, including the designs for various components of the project, including their construction.
Though the government has maintained that it will not have to pay for the repairs because the pump houses were still covered by a ‘defect liability’ clause in the contract signed with the construction company, sources say that this conclusion, like the `25 crore repair bill estimate, is premature. Both the government and the contracting company have been tightlipped about this issue, and efforts to elicit official comments have been met with silence.
There appears to be some confusion about how long this clause will be in effect, with some officials claiming two years and others claiming five. The defect liability clause, however, does not hold much water, according to sources, because the pump houses have been running in perfect condition for the past two years, and the clause's validity has expired. According to sources, the government finds itself in a tricky situation on this aspect.
Even if the contractor accepts that the defect liability clause is operative, this would imply that the contractor passed off defective work as quality performance, which calls into question the state irrigation department’s quality control checks during, after, and during the trial run phases of the pump houses. Worse, the government provided every design, specification, and plans – whether for construction of retaining walls, or anything else associated with the pump houses. If the government absolves the contractor of the defect liability clause, then this would mean it acknowledges that its designs were flawed or inadequate to withstand severe floods in the river.
The location of the Kannepalli pump house, which has 17 motors, at least three of which have suffered serious damage and one moderate damage based on initial visual assessment, is one of the real issues. It is located near the Kaleshwaram barrage at Medigadda.
The images from the pumphouse appear as if it was bombed in a war. The July flood was unexpected and much larger than any recorded in the previous 40 years, officials say, admitting that the pumphouse design did not account for what might happen if an unexpected, or previously unseen event occurred.
The Annaram pump house, which houses eight pumps, was fortunate to escape with only minor flooding. Officials say all the water has been pumped out and two pumps suffered minor damage and the motors and pumps are being dried. Sources said trial runs of the pumps can start in the first week of September....