The Supreme Court on Thursday granted an interim relief to the Karnataka government, allowing it to implement the final order of the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal (MWDT), which has been challenged by Goa and Maharashtra. The development could help the calamity-prone state and its parched northern districts.
The bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, however, said the final order of the apex court will be issued after hearing the petitions filed by all the three states, which have raised objections to the tribunal’s order.
In its order on 14 August 2018, the MWDT had allocated 13.42 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water from the Mahadayi, or Mandovi, river to Karnataka. The tribunal was set up to settle the nearly four-decade-old dispute between the three states.
Ramesh Jarkiholi, Karnataka’s water resources minister, in a statement, said the court’s order had given much-needed relief to the northern districts.
Of the 13.42 tmcft water for Karnataka, 5.5 tmcft is meant for use within the river basin and for diversion to the Malaprabha reservoir, and around 8 tmcft for power generation. Goa, which had opposed Karnataka’s demand for over 36tmcft of water, was allocated 24 tmcft, while Maharashtra was given 1.3 tmcft.
Karnataka has sought 7.56 tmcft so that it could supply water to 13 towns across Dharwad, Belagavi, Bagalkot and Gadag districts in north Karnataka, which is one of the most arid regions in the country after Rajasthan.
Karnataka proposes to build canals to link its tributaries—Kalasa and Banduri—to divert water to the Malaprabha river basin. Goa, however, argues that the proposed diversions will have an adverse effect on all “well-established socioeconomic activities" with “disastrous environmental consequences".
The admission of the plea in the SC had come as a relief to the B.S. Yediyurappa-led government, which has been severely criticized over putting political interests before efficient governance, including flood relief work.
With the Centre yet to pay thousands of crores in pending dues under the goods and services tax (GST) system, and other schemes, the Karnataka government has been scrambling for funds ahead of the state budget on 5 March.
Speaking at the ongoing session of the state legislature on Thursday, Yediyurappa, too, conceded that Karnataka was facing a severe fund crunch.
“I welcome the decision of Supreme Court for allowing Karnataka’s plea for the Centre to notify the implementation of #Mahadayi project that will provide drinking water. Congratulations to all the farmers for their relentless efforts to make this happen," Siddaramaiah, leader of the Opposition in Karnataka, said on Twitter.
The dispute over sharing of Mahadayi water has been a political rallying point for all parties in Karnataka, following the devastating floods and crippling droughts, which has led to acute shortage of drinking water, as well as for agricultural activities.
The apex court’s decision, however, was a setback for the Pramod Sawant-led BJP government, which was criticized by Opposition parties for failing to protect the interests of the coastal state.
“Reliably known that Karnataka prayed to go ahead for gazette notification of Mhadei (Mahadayi) Tribunal Order. Goa didn’t object! And played into the hands of Karnataka, which can now officially go ahead with Khalsa Bhanduri Project as @PrakashJavdekar promised Bommai in letter of 24/12/19!," Vijay Sardesai, president of the Goa Forward Party and legislator from Fatorda, said on Twitter.
Two senior ministers in the Goa government and the BJP state president could not be reached for comment.