Tourists throng Papi Hills before Polavaram consumes it

Tourists throng Papi Hills before Polavaram consumes it

Expected to be completed by the end of 2019, the huge reservoir also would submerge part of the Eastern Ghats, many tribal settlements, rare flora and fauna, and Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuary.

At Polavaram village in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, hundreds of people are queuing up on the Godavari river bank for a cruise tour of Papi Hills, before they get submerged due to the Polavaram Project coming across the river. The scenic and picturesque Papi Hills, known as Papikondalu in Telugu, through which the Godavari flows in East and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh will go under water as the reservoir created due to the Polavaram Dam will start filling up in two years. Expected to be completed by the end of 2019, the huge reservoir also would submerge part of the Eastern Ghats, many tribal settlements, rare flora and fauna, and Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuary. As work on the dam goes on at a fast pace, thousands of tourists have started queuing up at Rajahmundry to be taken in buses to the boarding point at Polavaram village to see these beautiful hills before they are lost forever. From upstream Bhadrachalam in Telangana, more boats bring in tourists.


The much publicized foundation laying of construction of spillway of the Polavaram Project on December 30 by Chief Minister N Chandarbabu Naidu has heightened the urgency to enjoy the natural beauty of these hills range. Cruise boat operators based at Rajahmundry are flooded with bookings as tourists are quickly becoming aware that the scenic tours may end very soon.

The boat operators ply dozens of air-conditioned double-decker boats every day and the cruise from Polavaram to Papi Hills and back takes at least nine hours, a round trip of about 130 kms on the Godavari. The boat rides are possible only from October to March, when the Godavari slows down after the monsoon flood and has enough depth to allow the boats to ply. So, families, nature lovers, photography enthusiasts and everyone who can afford a ticket are eager to enjoy the cruise.

After entering Telangana at Basara in Adilabad district, and flowing through Bhadrachalam, the Godavari enters Andhra Pradesh and narrows down to just about 500 metres in breadth when it flows through the gorges, ravines and gullys of the Papi Hills which look misty blue from a distance, before re-widening at Polavaram and reaching a maximum breadth of 4.5-5 kms downstream at Rajamundry. Through the millennia the river has carved several paths through the Papi Hills range, and only recently it has become a popular place for tourists to enjoy the boat rides.

At some places where the river slows down, there are deposits of alluvial soil and the huge dunes are visible when the water level is low. K Rama Mohan Rao, owner of Sai Krishna Godavari Boat Tours and a member of the Rajahmundry Boat Owners Association says that the number of tourists has increased this season drastically. “People are now aware that the hills would be submerged soon and they are making a trip to Rajahmundry exclusively to see Papikondalu. This season which began in first week of October, we are witnessing 1,100 to 1,200 tourists. There was extra rush during Sankranti holidays also,” Rao said. Seventeen boats are operated by agencies based at Rajahmundry while 23 boats are operated by agencies at Bhadrachalam in Telangana. Many people instead of going to Rajahmundry or Polavaram, catch the boat midway after reaching one or two points on the river bank that are reachable by road.

The Polavaram dam, also known as Indira Sagar, is an earth-cum-rock fill structure to harness the river Godavari. Envisaged in the early 1940s, the dam was caught up in controversies for more than 60 years. In September last year, the NDA Government accorded national project status to the project with retrospective effect from April, 2014. Nearly two lakh people would be displaced by the project.


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