Unhappy with the outcome of central-government facilitated talks with Chhattisgarh over construction of barrages on Mahanadi river in its neighbouring state, Odisha Saturday said it is considering the option of approaching the Supreme Court to set up a tribunal under the Inter-state Water Dispute Act of 1956.
“We will explore all options. We will leave no stone unturned to protect the interests of Odisha. That would certainly include the legal option of approaching the apex court to set up a tribunal… The serious environment threats posed by these projects will be decisively challenged in all suitable forums, including the National Green Tribunal,” the Odisha government said in a statement.
The statement came after a more than two-hour long meeting between Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh, convened by the Water Resources Ministry here.
Odisha is objecting to the construction of six barrages on Mahanadi river in Chhattisgarh, upstream of the Hirakud dam, which, it claims, would have “disastrous consequences on the livelihoods of millions of farmers, fishermen”. Odisha says these barrages would “drastically affect the fragile ecosystem of Mahanadi”. It also says it should have been consulted by Chhattisgarh in this matter.
But Chhattisgarh says Odisha is blowing the issue out of proportion. It says the new barrages would hold just 274 million cubic metres (MCM) of water out of the more than 40,000 MCM that annually flows into the river. On Saturday, Chhattisgarh said there would be enough water in the Mahanadi to fill up Odisha’s Hirakud Dam “five to seven times over” even after the construction of the new barrages.
With their tussle threatening to go the way of the Cauvery water dispute between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the Centre had convened a meeting of the two states.
Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said the Centre would ensure that no injustice is done to Odisha. She asked Chhattisgarh government to stop construction work on all the six barrages for a week, during which a team of experts would visit the states to check on Odisha’s claim that these projects have been initiated without required legal permissions.
Chhattisgarh has agreed for the inspection, but Odisha protested saying that work needed to be stopped till the entire issues was “revisited” and not just for a week. Chhattisgarh argued that more than 90 per cent works had been completed on all the six projects, and Odisha never objected to them earlier. The Centre has directed the Central Water Commission to install new gauges at the border of the two states to measure the flow in the river as it enters Odisha.