In the quest of yet another Koh-i-noor – by Appaji Reddem (The Hindu – April 23, 2017)

Prospectors flock to Kollur mine area as the KL Sagar waters recede

While India’s battle to reclaim the Koh-i-noor diamond continues, summer has given a new lease of life to the mines along the Krishna river that spawned the crown jewel. They have surfaced after months under the waters of the Pulichintala irrigation project in Guntur district.

And as the deserted villages in the 2.4 lakh sq. km. catchment area reappear, prospectors flock to the area, hoping to find another Koh-i-Noor. The Kollur mine, the ‘Eldorado’ that yielded the enigmatic diamond and the eponymous village in Andhra Pradesh lie in a forested region some 100 km from Vijayawada, enveloped by Pulichintala project or the Dr KL Rao Sagar project on the Krishna river.

The region has been home to diamond mining for centuries, reaching its zenith under the Qutub Shahi dynasty with their capital Golconda a global hub of the trade. Millions of carats of diamonds are believed to have been mined from Kollur between the 15th and the 19th century.

The Koh-i-noor was mined during 16th century and was sold in Golconda. The mines along the Kollur-Paritala belt were active till the 1830s but were gradually given up. Kollur and the region along the Krishna river surfaced in public attention again in the 1990s when the Maoists held control of the region and distributed close to 1,000 acres to the landless poor.

And then in 2004, the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy government initiated the Pulichintala multipurpose irrigation project under the ambitious Jalayagnyam programme to tap the waters of the Krishna. After a decade of mass evacuations and migration from the affected villages, including Kollur, during the construction, the project was inaugurated by the former Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy in 2013. At present, the entire region remains submerged under 50 feet of water in most of the year.

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