The technical advisory committee of the Central Water Commission (CWC) on Monday night announced in New Delhi that the revised cost estimate (RCE) (i.eRs 55,548 crores) of the mega Polavaram project on the Godavari in Andhra Pradesh (AP), a national project, had been cleared.

The mega irrigation project - often described as the lifeline of Andhra Pradesh after bifurcation - was mentioned in the AP Re-organisation Act, 2014, as a national project.

Now, the RCE would have to be cleared by the Union Finance Ministry and then the Cabinet would have to approve it , but a major hurdle has been crossed, according to AP irrigation officials.

On Monday, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu sat on a 12-hour dharna and hunger strike in the Andhra Bhavan in New Delhi, protesting against the alleged unjust treatment meted out to the State by the NDA Government in the aftermath of bifurcation of AP in 2014.

The "inordinate delay in the clearance of the revised cost estimate of the Polavaram project" is also one of the bones of contention between the State and the Centre, after the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the BJP parted ways last year.

According to AP irrigation department officials, the cost of the project was pegged at Rs 16,010.45 crores at 2010-11 rates and the State Government had submitted a revised cost estimate, taking into account cost escalation, but it got stuck at the central level.

The State Government, which is executing the project, is demanding the immediate reimbursement by the centre of Rs 3,866.79 crores already spent on the project, but pending clearance of the revised cost estimate and revised DPR the Centre is unable to release the funds, it is said.

Of the revised cost estimate, nearly Rs 33,000 crores would have to be spent on relief and rehabilitation (R&R) package and the rest on the dam and canals.

According to the Chief Minister, nearly 65 per cent of the work on the dam has been completed and every attempt would be made to complete it by the year-end, and to release water by gravitational flow for the coming kharif season itself even before the completion of the project. So far, according to the CM, Rs 15,585 crores has been spent on the project.