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The States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu extend across the southern cone of the Indian Peninsula. These states are drained by the Godavari river to the north, the Krishna river in the central zone, and the Cauvery river to the south. The three major rivers rise in the high plateau areas of the Western Ghats, and flow eastward across the Deccan Plateau before discharging into the Bay of Bengal.

They are the primary sources of water for an extensive network of irrigation schemes. Prior to independence, several major irrigation dams were constructed on the Cauvery river in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, including the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) and Mettur schemes respectively. A few other large irrigation dams were constructed on the main tributaries of the Godavari (i.e., Nizamsagar) and Krishna ( i.e., Tungabhadra) Rivers. 

Since independence, large new irrigation dams have been constructed on all the three major river systems, including the Sri Rama Sagar on the Godavari River, the Nagar Junar Sagar and Upper Krishna systems on the Krishna River, and the Hemavathy in the Cauvery River basin. Moreover, a wide range of smaller dams and diversion structures and canals have been built to extend the irrigation network throughout the southern region. 

The state of Punjab is located on the Indo-Gangetic Plains which has a much more gently graded topography than exists in the south.  Since the available heads at the majority of canal drops is less than five (5) meters, power generation is  feasible only because of the relatively large flows which are available in the canals for over ten months each year

The potential for power generation on these existing irrigation dams, diversion weirs, and canals in the four southern states is particularly good because of the following factors. 
  • Large network of irrigation canals exist in the country due to the extensive infrastructure built since independence. This can be used effectively to economically meet a large part of the power and energy demand in the rural and agricultural areas and thus reduce transmission and distribution losses
  • Most of the civil works such as dam, reservoir has already been built hence cost of development of these schemes is lower.
  • The terrain is undulating, hence numerous drops exist along the irrigation canals and diversion weirs in the region; such drops provide sufficient hydraulic heads for low-head (i.e., 3-15 meters) mini-hydro applications. 
  • Due to the relatively large number of irrigation storage reservoirs in the region, the hydraulic head that is created when water is discharged through sluices in irrigation dams into the canals is also suitable for power generation.
  • The irrigation season in the southern states extends from July through March. Therefore for about nine months each year, a fairly continuous supply of irrigation water is available for power generation.
  • No new environmental problems and impacts are created as the only addition is a small power house and bypass arrangements.
  • The pattern of flow in the canal is not altered.
The development of schemes at existing Irrigation Dams and canal drops will be beneficial especially because of a slowdown in the conventional development of large hydropower projects due to 
  • Lack of financial resources in the states with the greatest hydropower potential
  • Recurring and drawn out disputes over water rights between states
  • Environmental and resettlement issues associated with large schemes
  • Limited technical resources to proceed simultaneously with the preparation of several large schemes

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