Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Tuesday wrote another letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the third since November, urging him to set up a tribunal in connection with the Mahanadi water row. The letter, in which Patnaik expressed surprise at the Centre’s changed stance on the issue, comes within a week of the Union Water Resources Ministry telling the Supreme Court that the dispute could be settled through negotiations.
The Union minister of state for water resources had informed the Rajya Sabha on July 31 and the Lok Sabha on August 10 that the water dispute could not be settled by negotiations and a tribunal was required to be set up, Patnaik said. Patnaik also pointed out that the counsel appearing for the Union of India assured before the Supreme Court on October 9 that a notification will be issued before November 19 on constituting a tribunal.
“However, to the utter surprise of the people of Odisha, for whom Mahanadi is a lifeline, the Union Ministry of Water Resources filed a written statement on December 4 changing its stand completely by stating that the tribunal cannot be constituted,” he said.
This “volte face” is not only surprising but “smacks of considerations” other than what is legal or just, the chief minister alleged. “…My government does not see any purpose in further negotiation with the recalcitrant state of Chhattisgarh which has unilaterally and surreptitiously gone ahead with the construction of dams and barrages in the Mahanadi basin,” Patnaik said.
Odisha has been opposing Chhattisgarh’s plans to build 13 barrages and seven small dams on the upstream of the Mahanadi, saying the constructions would affect the interests of its farmers. The issue has led to continued uproar in the Odisha Assembly in the last few days.