Babhali, barrage of contention

Chandrababu NaiduÔÇÖs arrest reignites the Godavari dispute

By Bharat Lal Seth
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

imageTELUGU Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu reignited the Godavari river water sharing controversy when he was arrested last month on his way to the Babhali barrage in Maharashtra’s Nanded district.

Andhra Pradesh has long held that the barrage, located 7 km into its border with Maharashtra, will deprive Telangana of its due share of water and go against the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal awarded in 1980. The Maharashtra government has claimed that it conceived the project within the limits of the share allotted to the state.

The 11-metre barrage on the Godavari is designed to meet the drinking water needs of 58 villages and four towns in Nanded district and irrigate 7,995 hectares. Construction began in 2005 and the following year the government of Andhra Pradesh filed a suit against Maharashtra seeking a stay. The Supreme Court heard the matter in April 2007 and passed an interim order permitting construction, but disallowed water storage. The final judgement is expected on August 16.

The Andhra government opposed the project because it is located in the backwater reservoir of Pochampad dam and will compromise its benefits. “As per the agreement between two states, you can’t construct a storage structure in the submergence zone of an existing dam,” J Satyanand, chief engineer in the Andhra irrigation department said. “We don’t deny that the barrage lies in the submergence zone of the Pochampad dam,” said Balaji Kompalwar, secretary to the Babhali Bandhara Kruti Samiti, committee formed to protect the interests of the barrage beneficiaries. He added that the barrage would affect less than 1 per cent of the dam’s capacity (see graphic).

“Maharashtra is even willing to release this amount but Andhra Pradesh has refused the offer,” he added. As per the tribunal, Maharashtra is permitted to utilise 1699 million cubic metre of Godavari water for new projects. “Babhali is one of the several projects planned to make use of this provision,” Kompalwar said. Irrigation department officials in Andhra Pradesh refused to comment on the matter and await the Supreme Court’s final judgement.

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