“There could be an amicable settlement provided Secretary, Water Resources Ministry convenes a meeting of all stakeholders”

The Supreme Court has asked the Union Water Resources Ministry to explore the possibility of resolving the Palar river water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh through negotiations.

A Bench of Justices M.K. Sharma and Anil R. Dave, in a brief interim order, asked the Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, to assist the parties in arriving at a negotiated settlement.

The Bench said: “After a preliminary hearing, it appears that there could be an amicable settlement to the disputes involved in the present case provided Secretary, Water Resources Ministry, convenes a meeting of all the stakeholders, including the Chairman, Central Water Commission (CWC) and representatives of the two States and holds a discussion with them.”

The Bench directed that a report be submitted to the Court within eight weeks. In the meantime, the Bench said, “list of witnesses shall be filed by the parties.”

The Bench was hearing a suit filed by Tamil Nadu to restrain Andhra Pradesh from constructing the proposed check dam across the Palar. Tamil Nadu contended that the proposed dam near Kuppam would deprive people in the State of their lifeline — the Palar. It said that the proposed dam would be in violation of an 1892 agreement between riparian States, under which no water could be obstructed, diverted or stored upstream without the consent of the downstream State or region. It also cited reports according to which the project was expected to submerge at least eight villages in Andhra Pradesh and displace about 3,000 families.

Tamil Nadu alleged that Andhra Pradesh was reported to have proceeded to call for tenders for the construction of the dam and the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh had stated that the State would proceed with the construction.

The unilateral action by the State in proceeding with the construction of the dam, without furnishing the information and taking the concurrence of Tamil Nadu, was totally illegal, it said and sought a direction to restrain Andhra Pradesh from proceeding with the construction.

Andhra Pradesh strongly refuted Tamil Nadu's allegations, saying no such work was currently going on at the site and that certain designs related to the dam had been prepared so far. “We have shared the designs with the Tamil Nadu government. We are aware of the inter-State problems involved over the project, but we can say there will not be any loss to Tamil Nadu because of the project,” the State said.