Editor’s NoteOpinion

‘Mhadei River’ is not BJP’s ‘Water Tank’ to Divert On Personal Whims

Open Letter to India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javdekar

Mr Javdekar:

Let me get right to point, since I am not in the habit of going round the bush on any issue that is critical to my people in the state of Goa:  ‘Mhadei River’ is not BJP’s ‘Water Tank’ to Divert On Personal Whims

The Central government has granted Environment Clearance (EC) to Karnataka’s Kalasa Banduri project on the River. Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra have been fighting over river water diversion for over decade now.

Ignorantly and arrogantly you took to social media to announce the grant of EC for the Kalasa project. “On the follow up of my cabinet colleague @JoshiPralhad (Union Mines Minister), Kalasa Banduri drinking water project in Karnataka has been granted environmental approval.”

The Karnataka government in its submission before MOEF&CC for the EC has said that tribunal has directed the State to implement the project after obtaining mandatory clearances as required by law.

It had said the project includes construction of three diversion dams namely Haltara diversion dam, Kalasa diversion Dam and Banduri diversion dam involving diversion of 499.13Ha of forest land, which includes submergence of 406.6Ha of forest land.

The proposed project involves supply of 7.56 TMC of water during monsoon season through interconnecting canals for providing drinking water facilities to Hubli-Dharwad towns, Kundgol town and en route villages.

However, the Tribunal has awarded total of 3.90TMC of water for diversion from Mhadei basin to Malaprabha River for drinking water purpose, comprising of 1.72TMC from Kalasa Nala and 2.18TMC from Banduri.

This project falls within the eco-sensitive zone of Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary and is located close to Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Supreme Court has stayed the construction of dams and canals by Karnataka on the Mhadei. It is shocking that after SC has ordered a stay, Centre has decided to grant Environmental Clearance to Karnataka.

Let me explain the history over this issue, if you have not bothered to study it and was in a hurry too please your BJP leaders in Karnataka.

The dispute over Mhadei River began in the 80s and grew stronger in the subsequent decades. The trigger was Karnataka’s move to design a number of dams, canals and barrages to route the Mhadei river water to the Malaprabha basin. Karnataka claimed that channelling the river water into the basin of Malaprabha, a tributary of the Krishna, would meet the requirements of water-scarce districts of Bagalkot, Gadag, Dharwad and Belagavi.

Goa, when seeking redressal to the dispute in 2002, sought the constitution of a water disputes tribunal. The state also moved the apex court in 2006 with its demand. After sustained efforts by the Goan government, the Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal was set up on November 16, 2010.

The population of Goa is dependent on the river’s natural path and any move to divert it would affect its fragile ecosystem. The ingress of saltwater in the river, which is dependent on monsoons, will ultimately end up killing the state’s mangroves and green belt, disturb the relationship between the people and the land, as well as the ecological balance.

We, the people of Goa have expressed our reservations, because there is all possibility that Karnataka may stock excess water in its reservoirs so that it can be used for irrigation in other parts of the state.

Mhadei River rises in the Western Ghats, from the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Khanapur taluk of Karnataka’s Belagavi district. Flowing westward, it enters Goa from Sattari Taluka of North Goa districts. A number of streams join the flow of the river to form the Mandovi which is one of two major rivers that flow through Goa. It joins the Arabian Sea at Panjim.

The people of Goa are disappointed and shocked at this decision you have taken Mr Javdekar.

This is an autocratic behaviour that is similar to the highhandedness shown by BJP Central leadership in inducting corrupt Congress MLAs into the party and stomping over the legacy of a true patriot – Late Manohar Parrikar. We Goans have fought the Mhadei issue because we know it is our lifeline and we will not tolerate the Centre taking any arbitrary decisions not in the interest of our state.

The people of Goa have now forced the Chief Minister of Goa Dr Pramod Sawant to tow the line of the people of the state and not dance to the dictates of the Centre on the Mhadei River issue. He has written to you stating, “I request you to direct the Ministry of Environment and Forests to immediately withdraw the letter. It would also be in right perspective, if a team of your ministry conducts a visit to the site, along with representatives of the basin states to inspect and get first-hand information of the actions of the state of Karnataka of actually diverting waters of the Mhadei basin to Malaprabha basin in contravention of even the directives of the Tribunal.”

If Dr Pramod Sawant fails to get you to withdraw your clearance, then I am afraid he will have to step down from the CM’s position, because he does not deserve to sit in it.

Manohar Parrikar even though being a strong nationalist put the concerns of the state of Goa and its people over the Mhadei River issue first, because logically, it will be Goa who will suffer more than Karnataka would gain.

I would in normal circumstances have appealed to you to change your decision, but this not an issue that requires an appeal. You action of granting EC is one of lack of foresight and borders on contempt of the SC directives.

The SC has been clear on its orders on this issue. Please refrain from thinking that the MoEF is more important than the interests of the people of Goa.

Please pay heed that it is the interest of BJP in the state, that you cancel the EC given to the state of Karnataka and not act as big brother on issues pertaining to Goa just because the newly christened BJP to Bharatiya Congress Party leaders are deaf and dumb on this issue.

The people of Goa are wide awake and will take BJP head-on on Mhadei River.

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