Mahadayi verdict fair, now move on

The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal appears to have dealt a fair deal to Karnataka and Goa, with the initial reaction of the warring states to the award being positive. The dispute over the sharing of Mahadayi waters goes back over five decades, with a tribunal being constituted in 2010 to adjudicate the contentious issue. Mahadayi, which originates in Belagavi district, has a catchment area of about 2,032 km — the longest stretch of 1,580 km being in Goa, followed by 375 km in Karnataka and 77 km in Maharashtra. As no projects could be undertaken pending resolution of the dispute, a large portion of the river flowed into the Arabian Sea, even as many districts in North Karnataka remained parched. In its recent order, the tribunal has allotted 13.5 tmcft to Karnataka, 24 tmcft to Goa and 1.33 tmcft to Maharashtra. Though Karnataka might not be entirely satisfied with the quantum of water allotted, considering it had demanded 39 tmcft, the state has won a major victory with the tribunal permitting diversion of Mahadayi river to the Malaprabha basin, which will enable completion of the long-pending Kalasa-Banduri project.

The Kalasa-Banduri project, which aims to fulfill the drinking water needs of Belagavi, Dharwad and Gadag, had remained on paper for several decades, until the SM Krishna government obtained the Centre’s nod for its implementation in 2002. However, with the BJP government in Goa raising objections, the NDA regime at the Centre withdrew its approval. Another attempt was made to complete the construction in 2006 when HD Kumaraswamy was the chief minister and this time Goa obtained a stay order from the court. The issue has now come full circle with the tribunal ordering that out of Karnataka’s allocation of 13.5 tmcft, 5.5 tmcft shall be used for consumptive purposes, including diversion of water to Kalasa-Banduri and 8 tmcft for hydroelectricity.

Mahadayi has generated considerable political heat over the years and it is unlikely that politicians will let the issue die before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. After the initial euphoria, both Karnataka and Goa have now indicated that they may appeal against this order. In any case, Karnataka should take enough legal precaution to ensure that Goa does not obtain a stay on the implementation of the tribunal’s order from the Supreme Court. This will only prolong the suffering of the people of the dry North Karnataka region which has been facing continuous drought. While the riparian states have every right to protect their interests, they should also display statesmanship and not allow the issue to linger as water is one of the basic needs of humans.

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Mahadayi verdict fair, now move on

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