• Declaring the environmental clearance (EC) granted to the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation system in Telangana as ex post facto (retroactive, after it is done) and illegal, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Telangana government to stop all work, except the drinking water component of the project, until further orders.



  • The NGT has observed that the Telangana government subsequently changed the design of the project to increase its capacity.
  • By increasing its capacity to pump 3 TMC water from 2 TMC, large tracts of forest land and other land was taken over and massive infrastructure was built causing adverse impact on the environment.
  • Extraction of more water certainly requires more storage capacity and also affects hydrology and riverine ecology of Godavari River.
  • Such issues have to be examined by the statutory authorities concerned.
  • The petition filed in 2018 stated that while the Kaleshwaram Project was a lift irrigation system, the state government wrongly claimed, until the grant of environmental clearance (EC), that the project was not for lift irrigation, but only for drinking water supply.
  • Substantial work of the project had already been undertaken before granting of EC in December 2017. Thus, the EC was ex post facto, in violation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006.
  • There are two legal issues confronting the Project
    • Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project was functioning without requisite prior environmental clearance under EIA Notification, 2006, until 2017, when the EC was granted.
    • Project contractor L&T was alleged to have cleared large areas of forest land for construction of quarters for its employees, without requisite forest clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • The NGT directed that until the Telangana government obtains final forest clearance, it should stop all work except the drinking water component.



  • The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation System is considered to be one of the world’s largest multi-purpose projects.
  • It is designed to provide water for irrigation and drinking purposes to about 45 lakh acres in 20 of the 31 districts in Telangana, apart from Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The cost of the project is Rs 80,000 crore, but is expected to rise to Rs 1 lakh crore by the time it is completely constructed by the end of 2020.
  • This project is unique because Telangana will harness water at the confluence of two rivers with Godavari by constructing a barrage at Medigadda in Jayashankar Bhupalpally district and reverse pump the water into the main Godavari River and divert it through lifts and pumps into a huge and complex system of reservoirs, water tunnels, pipelines and canals.
  • The project has set many records with the world’s longest water tunnels, aqueducts, underground surge pools, and biggest pumps. By the time the water reaches Kondapochamma Sagar, the last reservoir in the system, about 227 kms away in Gajwel district, the Godavari water would have been lifted to a height of 618 metres from its source at Medigadda.
  • The total length of the entire Kaleshwaram project is approximately 1,832 km of which 1,531 km is gravity canals and 203 km comprise water tunnels. There are 20 water lifts and 19 pump houses in the project.
  • While the intricate canal network covers approximately 1,832 km, the farthest Except for a few stretches involving pipelines and canals, much of the project is complete.


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