Supreme Court clears way for Maharashtra’s Babli irrigation project

Rejects Andhra's plea to demolish barrage; sets up a panel to ensure equitable utilisation of Godavari waters

By M Suchitra
Published: Saturday 02 March 2013

Putting an end to the seven-year-long legal battle between Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra over the Babli irrigation project on the  Godavari river, the Supreme Court on February 28 ruled in favour of Maharashtra. The court rejected Andhra Pradesh’s plea to demolish the barrage, which is being constructed by Maharashtra, and allowed Maharashtra to go ahead with the project.

The controversial barrage, located in Nanded district, just 30 km from Andhra Pradesh’s border, is expected to help Maharashtra irrigate 8,000 hectares in the district, and provide drinking water to about 60 villages and towns. The project had received clearance from the Central government in 1995, and the Maharashtra government started construction in 2004.

The Godavari flows from Nanded into the Sriram Sagar Project (SRSP) in Nizamabad district of Andhra Pradesh. Andhra Pradesh moved the Supreme Court in 2006, contending that if a dam was built upstream very close to this project it would affect the water flow to SRSP and six northern districts—Adilabad, Nizamabad, Karimnagar, Warangal, Nalgonda, Khammam and Medak—would be deprived of  water for irrigation and drinking purposes. The state argued that the barrage would affect 728,434 ha in SRSP area. It petitioned the Supreme Court to direct Maharashtra to demolish the construction.

But Maharashtra opposed the plea of its neighbour saying that as per the agreement signed by the two states on October 6, 1975, construction of projects for using its share of water is its prerogative and the only cap is that the utilisation should not exceed 60 thousand million cubic (tmc) feet (1 tmc equals 28.3 billion litres) of water. As per the terms of the pact Maharashtra could utilise 60 tmc ft of the Godavari waters while Andhra Pradesh could go ahead with building the Sriram Sagar Project and utilise the balance water.
While refusing to stall the Babli project, the court ordered the constitution of a three-member committee to supervise the construction. The committee will have one representative from the Central Water Commission (CWC) and one representative each from Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, and the CWC representative will be chairperson of the committee. The location of the supervisory panel office and entire expenditure of the panel shall be decided and borne by Maharashtra.

The committee will have the responsibility of ensuring that Maharashtra maintains the Babli storage capacity of 2.74 tmc feet out of the allocation of 60 tmc ft given to Maharashtra for new projects as per the 1975 agreement. The panel must see that the gates of the barrage would remain lifted during monsoon period from July 1 to October 28. There should not be any obstruction to the natural flow of the river during monsoon below the three dams, Paithan, Siddheswar and Nizamsagar, towards SRSP in Andhra Pradesh.

The committee has to also ensure that “during the non-monsoon season—from October 29 till the end of June next year—the quantity of water which Maharashtra utilises for Babli barrage does not exceed 2.74 tmc feet of which only 0.6 tmc feet forms the common submergence of Pochampad reservoir and Babli barrage and Maharashtra does not periodically utilise 2.74 tmc feet from time to time”.

The apex Court has also ruled that Maharashtra must release 0.6 tmc ft of water on March 1 every year to Andhra Pradesh.

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