Hyderabad: Confusion prevails among the 200 operators who organise the popular Papikondalu cruises on the river Godavari, with the AP government rushing to complete work on the Polavaram dam by next year.
The cruises run from Rajahmundry to Bhadrachalam via Polavaram and Kunavaram, passing by Papi Hills of the Eastern Ghats which are rich in fauna and flora.
Once it is built, the Polavaram dam will impound 172 tmc ft of water. The water will reach 150 feet above mean sea level, and will submerge more than 200 tribal habitations, including the small islands and the banks of the river that are used by the tourism department to host visitors. The boating spots at Devepatnam, Purushottapatnam, Polavaram and Sriramagiri will be submerged by the backwaters of the dam.
“We have been told that there will be a lot of changes in our operations once the dam is completed. We don’t know anything about this. Officers from the irrigation and forest departments will have a greater say in operating boats,” K.V.V. Durga Rao, manager of Jabilli Boat Operations, that works for AP Tourism, told this newspaper.
According to Ch. Ramesh Babu, chief engineer, Polavaram head works, the navigation canal, which is a part of the dam, will allow movement of boats between Rajahmundry and Bhadrachalam.
It will take some time to build the canals and the boats can be operated from Polavaram dam to Bhadrachalam in the backwaters. He admitted that once the dam is filled, a number of habitations and tourist spots will be submerged.
Right now, the boats travel on the river almost at the foot of the Papi Hills. Once the dam is filled, the water will reach the hilltop. Moreover, as it is a new dam, the filling of water has to be monitored by the safety panel.
During construction of the head works of the dam, like spillway, diaphragm wall and coffer dam, the water will be diverted, thereby changing the course of the river. “This is most confusing. If the course of the river changes, we would have to find new boating spots,” said Sekhar Reddy, another boat operator.
Once the dam is filled, it will open new options for the boat operators. Right now, there are no boat services starting from Bhadrachalam or Kunavaram as the river becomes shallow. When the Polavaram dam is full, the backwaters will spread beyond Bhadrachalam and up to Odisha, allowing the operators to introduce new services.
According to AP Tourism secretary N. Srikanth, the dam will boost tourism. “Once the navigation canal is complete, we can think of cruises from Bhadrachalam to Kakinada using the inland waterway. We are getting meagre revenue now, but after Polavaram, we can think of introducing water sports to attract international tourists and more revenue,” Mr Srikanth said.
He agreed that a few tourist spots like Perantalapalli and Kolluru may get submerged by the back waters. “We think about new avenues and new areas always,” he said.