Water wrangle

States slug it out over rivers

 
By LAKSHMI NARAYAN COYALKAR
Published: Thursday 30 June 2005

andhra Pradesh (ap) has sent a third memo to Maharashtra, asking it to stop the construction of the Rs 1,200 crore Babli hydropower project on river Godavari. At a recent press conference, ap's irrigation minister P Lakshamaiah said the state government would do anything to block the project, but he denied approaching the Central Water Commission. ap's objections to the project stem from an alleged violation of the 1975 pact signed between the two states to ensure abundant inflows into the Sriramsagar project. But Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh denies any violations, saying his state is using its own water. The Babli project aims to provide water to Maharashtra's dryland farmers and benefit 25,000 power consumers.

Ironically, both the states are ruled by a Congress-led coalition government. The water war over the major rivers of the region extends to another neighbouring Congress-ruled state, Karnataka. ap objects to Karnataka's construction of check dams in the Krishna basin, especially in k-8 sub-basin of the Tungabhadra and Pennar rivers. "Illegal constructions exist on the Upper Tunga, Upper Bhadra, Singatlur and Hirehalla in the Tungabhadra sub-basin," maintains Lakshmaiah. Adds a water board official, "A lower riparian state is liable to be exploited by a scheming upper riparian state. With Karnataka blocking water, inflows into Singur have been meagre. This has affected the drinking water needs of Hyderabad." All-India Kisan Sabha leader B Tulsidas alleges Karnataka is appropriating stream water by installing locks under road bridges.

Meanwhile, Karnataka opposes construction of ap's 11 irrigation projects on river Krishna. It has filed an interlocutory application with the Krishna Water Tribunal. ap anticipates the petition (lodged four times earlier with the Centre and Supreme Court and rejected each time) will fizzle out. But it has convened an all-party meet to discuss the situation. With no state giving in, the impasse seems likely to continue.

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