August 15, 2018 3:52:27 am
Nearly eight years after it was set up to mediate the dispute over sharing of Mahadayi (or Mhadei) river water, the Mahadayi Inter-State Water Disputes Tribunal on Tuesday brought a temporary end to a battle between the BJP government in Goa and Congress-government Karnataka. It ordered that Karnataka will get 13.4 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) of water from the river, while Goa and Maharashtra’s share will be 24 TMC and 1.33 TMC, respectively.
The tribunal also directed the Centre to set up the Mahadayi Water Management Authority to implement its report and final decision.
In its 12-volume judgment, the tribunal awarded Karnataka 5.4 TMC for consumptive use and the remaining 8.02 TMC for power generation, subject to further clearances. It ruled that total water availability in the basin at 75 per cent dependability was 188.06 TMC.
It also noted that the present level of utilisation of water of Mahadayi river basin is not more than 5 per cent.
Celebratory reactions poured in from the BJP in Goa, where the river is considered the primary water source for the people for agriculture and fishing. From his hospital bed, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar tweeted, “I am happy that the Mhadei Tribunal with its final verdict has done justice to Goa.”
Goa’s Water Resources Minister Vinod Palienkar, who had maintained that he will ensure “not a drop” goes to Karnataka, also tweeted victory messages.
In Karnataka, the judgment got a mixed response from political parties and farmer groups.
While Karnataka CM H D Kumaraswamy was circumspect, farmer groups that are agitating for over 1,000 days for access to water from the Mahadayi called the order “a victory for people of Karnataka’’.
Opposition BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa also called the order a “victory for farmers’’, even as a former Water Resources minister, Basavaraj Bommai of the BJP, and Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao said that the state has been shortchanged.
Mhadhei water dispute had become a political issue before the Goa Assembly elections, with the BJP seeking votes on the promise that a government led by the party will get favourable result.
Specifically referring to Karnataka’s demands, the tribunal noted: “The demand of Karnataka for 42.5 Mcum (1.5 TMC) of water for in-basin consumptive use for drinking water and irrigation within the Mahadayi river basin, along with evaporation losses from the reservoir(s) through proposed Mahadayi Hydroelectric Project (MHEP) is considered reasonable and is hereby granted.”
The tribunal also permitted diversion of 2.18 TMC at the proposed Bhadura dam, and 1.72 TMC at the proposed Kalasa dam.
While Maharashtra had initially sought 7 TMC, the tribunal granted it 1.33 tmc. For Goa, the tribunal noted that the requisite field investigation have not been carried out for 59 identified projects. “The permission of the tribunal to Goa to plan for utilization of 668 Mcum (24 TMC) of water at 75% dependability, is over and above the existing utilization of 9.395 tmc by the State of Goa,” it stated.
Minutes after the verdict, Additional Solicitor General Atmaram Nadkarni issued a written statement, calling it a “major victory for Goa”. Social media sites also instantly started voicing reactions from Goans, who recalled a poll promise by BJP ministers on fighting until the last drop of Mandovi was saved for the Goans.
Experts said the judgment was expected to ensure that Karnataka also got its share, since equal priority is given to the right to drinking water after the Cauvery verdict.
A senior officer in Maharashtra’s Water Resources Department said, “Maharashtra’s role was that of a mediator and it had very little stake as far as water-sharing was concerned. Therefore, the water dispute tribunal’s decision was in according to the ground situation, which is welcome. There is no injustice to the state.”
In Goa, the Opposition voiced concern on the impact it will have on the state’s cultivation and livelihood, and asked the government to go for an appeal.
Karnataka CM Kumaraswamy said, “I have already discussed the order of the tribunal with officers from the Water Resources Department and legal experts. The final award of the tribunal is contained in about 12 volumes and I will take an appropriate decision after studying it in detail and consulting all concerned.”
Karnataka Raitha Sena, which has been protesting for over three years in Nargund town in Gadag region, one of the four dry north Karnataka districts that will benefit from water supply from the Mahadayi, said the verdict is a victory for farmers of the state. “Sacrifices of farmers who participated in the protests for Mahadayi water…has proven to be meaningful,’’ said Veeresh Sobaradamath, who is leading the Karnataka Raitha Sena.
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