Goa puts a spoke in Karnataka's wheel

HUBLI Nov. 7. One more problem threatens to damage Karnataka's plan to utilise waters of the Mahadayi to increase the storage in the Malaprabha Project.

The State's plan to tap Mahadayi for meeting the power and irrigation needs is more than two decades old. It initially wanted to go in for hydel power generation of this west-flowing river, but later riveted its attention on diverting the water to the Malaprabha.

The diversion of Mahadayi waters was thought to be the only solution to the problem of impounding water from the Malaprabha, which was affecting the State's plans for irrigation and for meeting drinking water needs. But Goa, where the river is called Mandovi, has been opposing the State's move, and no chief minister has been able to face the tirade of the environmental lobby. Talks with the Goa Government have yielded nothing. In view of the intransigent attitude of Goa, the State Government changed its strategy by deciding to concentrate on the tributaries of the Mahadayi, and planned to take up projects that might not involve in submersion of the area on the Goan side.

Accordingly, irrigation experts came with the idea of tapping the Kalasa and Bandhori nalas, tributaries of the Mahadayi, which between them fetched around seven tmcft. of water of the total requirement of 10 tmcft. The State Cabinet approved the proposal, which involved an investment of Rs. 100 crore, and preparations began in right earnest.

The State crossed a major hurdle when it got clearance from the Central Water Commission (CWC) for the project. What surprised many was that the clearance came within a record time. It may be mentioned that the people of Hubli-Dharwad depend on the Malaprabha Project for their drinking water needs.Before the euphoria over the clearance of the project could subside came the shifting of the Union Water Resources Secretary, Navalvalia. He was named adviser, and Goswami posted in his place. It was learnt that the move had to do with the clearance given to Karnataka for the diversion project. Goa has now demanded the constitution of a new tribunal.

If the proposal finds favour, Goa will be fourth State, the others being Tamil Nadu (Cauvery), Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra (Krishna), to seek adjudication over the sharing of waters of the inter-State rivers through a tribunal under the Inter-State Water Disputes Act.

The implications of the move are clear. Karnataka is worried not about the tribunal but the delay it entails in completion of projects, since tribunals are known to take a long time to give verdicts on sharing of river waters.

Karnataka's rationale in taking up projects on the Mahadayi is that they will be executed within the share of water that the State may get from the river. The difference in the perception of the two States over the water yield from the river has hardly any relevance, as Karnataka's total usage planned will be well within the share that is determined. While Karnataka has estimated the yield to be around 150 tmcft., Goa claims it to be around 120 tmcft.

What is worrying Karnataka is the delay in getting the nod. The State cannot afford to go ahead with the implementation of the projects, as it has to secure many other clearances also.

While Karnataka is in a dilemma, Goa has nothing to lose. Its demand for a tribunal is not to get the water share determined but to use it as an alibi for postponing decision and come in the way of the expeditious implementation of the projects by Karnataka.

How the State Government tackles the problem remains to be seen. The Union Water Resources Ministry has convened a meeting in this connection on November 16.

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