M V Meenakshisundaram / PTI
New Delhi: Inter-state water disputes continued to plague the country in 2007 but the year would go down as the one in which India won in a major dispute with Pakistan over the two-decade-old Baglihar dam issue.
India stole a march over Pakistan in the early part of the year when the World Bank gave a green signal to the 450MW Balighar power project in electricity-starved Jammu and Kashmir, rejecting Islamabad’s objections.
The go-ahead to the project came after two years of arbitration in a two-decade-old dispute that had been adding to the woes in relations between the two neighbours.
The project on Chenab river in J&K had got caught in the dispute after Pakistan alleged that it violated the 1960 Indus Water Treaty between the two countries.
After years of talks, the two countries failed to resolve the dispute bilaterally and Pakistan in 2005 approached the World Bank for its intervention.
The decision on Baglihar is likely to impact another Indo-Pak water dispute — the Kishenganga. Pakistan has threatened to take this dispute also to the World Bank but India is confident of getting a verdict similar to that in the Baglihar dispute.
While the outcome achieved on Baglihar issue favoured India, sharing of water of common rivers remained a ticklish matter with another neighbour, Bangladesh.
The two countries held a number of rounds of talks and a joint survey was also conducted but the matter remains to be resolved.
On domestic front also, the year continued to see inter-state water disputes like Cauvery and on Mullaperiyar dam remaining unresolved.
After more than 16 years, the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal gave its final award early this year but neither Tamil Nadu nor Karnataka was satisfied with the verdict.
The Tribunal’s award set out the share of waters of the Cauvery among the riparian rivers of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
As per the final award, Tamil Nadu’s share to be released by Karnataka at the Billigundulu gauging station was 182 tmcft in addition to 10 tmcft for environmental purposes in a year. From this 192 tmcft, Tamil Nadu would release 7 tmcft to Puducherry.
The final award saw a series of protests in Karnataka and all the four states approached the Supreme Court seeking a review of the final award.
Keen on finding an amicable solution to the Mullaperiyar dam issue on which both Tamil Nadu and Kerala were parties, the Prime Minister played a mediatory role by bringing both the Chief Ministers together once again to iron out differences, but a solution failed to emerge.
The government declared the year as “Water Year” with a view to addressing the water related issues in a focused manner and ensure successful implementation of policies and programmes and to launch a massive awareness programme.
Faced with challenges in the water sector in the form of declining per capita availability and over-exploitation of ground water resources, the Prime Minister said the government cannot continue to subsidise the economic and commercial use of water.
“Providing free power to farmers has encouraged excessive use of pump sets and excessive drawing of ground water. If there is economic pricing of power, there would be some incentive for conserving ground water,” he had said at the National Congress on Ground Water.
An expert group constituted by the Planning Commission on ground water management and ownership, has suggested certain new initiatives which included electricity pricing and supply, incentives for efficient use and cooperative management.
In an effort to augment ground water levels, the government also proposed a “Dugwell Recharge Scheme” in hard rock areas in seven states, including providing full subsidy to small and marginal farmers.
It has been proposed that owners of dugwells from the small and marginal farmer category be considered for 100% subsidy, while for others it could be 50% of the cost.
The dugwell recharge scheme is proposed in 1,180 over-exploited, critical and semi-critical blocks in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh at a cost of Rs1,723.87 crore.