Bengaluru/Mumbai: Karnataka’s attempt to get Prime Minister Narendra Modi to mediate in its Mahadayi river water sharing dispute with Goa may not bear fruit soon, with the latter heading into an election year.
The Karnataka legislature Thursday adopted a unanimous resolution at its ongoing winter session in Belagavi, “This house seeks the intervention of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in finding an amicable solution to the problem outside the court.” The state is trying to get drinking water for the parched districts in its northern parts.
According to a senior Goa irrigation department official, the state is opposed to any diversion of Mahadayi (called Mandovi in the state) on three grounds. “One, a large quantum of Goa’s population depends on Mahadayi for its drinking water needs. Second, any diversion of the river or its tributary in Karnataka and Maharashtra would disturb the ecological balance in the river basin in Goa. Three, the fisherfolk in Goa as well as fish lovers rely on the potable water in Mahadayi for certain varieties of fish,” the official cited above said, requesting not to be identified.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has written at least three letters to Modi since August 2015 seeking his intervention.
“If the PM can solve the problem, they why not the CMs? They are the elected leaders and (they) know the details,” Harish Ramaswamy, professor of political science at the Karnataka University, Dharwad said, while pointing out to the main problem: Lack of political will.
Narendra Pani, a Bengaluru-based political analyst and professor at the School of Social Science, National Institute of Advanced Studies said the PM may intervene only if there is a solution in sight as he does not want to put himself in a situation where he intervenes and no one listens to him post such a meeting.
The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal on 1 September suggested all three chief ministers of the stakeholder states meet and resolve the dispute amicably. Karnataka, which is reeling under an acute drinking water shortage after a deficient South West monsoon and has declared drought in 139 of its 177 talukas, has taken the initiative to host the meeting. A meeting that was to be convened on 21 October in Mumbai was called off in the last minute after Goa chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar could not make it due to prior engagements.
However, Pani says there is always hope for a compromise as long as the possibility of talks are still not “off the table”.
Goa has so far refused to soften its stand. Rajendra Kerkar, a Goa-based environmentalist, supports the Goa government’s position not to divert water, saying 43% of Goa’s population depends on the river for their drinking water. “Karnataka has argued that excess water of Mahadayi should be diverted to North Karnataka as it anyway joins the Arabian sea and goes waste. But such diversion would cause ecological imbalance in the Goa basin,” Kerkar said.
The Mahadayi river originates in Karnataka and the total yield as per the Central Water Commission (CWC) estimates is in the range of 192 to 220 tmcft, with Goa being the largest beneficiary.
Karnataka water resources minister M.B. Patil says out of its 36 tmcft demand, 14 tmcft—required for the proposed Mahadayi Hydro Electric Project (MHEP) —will flow into Goa providing water during non-monsoon periods as well. Patil says that Karnataka generates around 43-56 tmcft of water (on different dependabilities) and is only demanding 36 tmcft. Providing a break-up, he says the MHEP would require 14 tmcft, Kali power project 5.5 tmcft, Kalasa-Bandura 7.56 tmcft, agriculture requires 7 tmcft and 1.5 tmcft for in basin requirements. Maharashtra has been a silent spectator in the matter so far, as its share is only around 4% and demands only its share.