Nandkumar M Kamat
Notionally on paper till Sun and Moon last, Goa would have to manage with a total 8,703 Million Cubic meters (MCM) of freshwater resources. This includes 133 MCM total groundwater resources. Since TMCfeet is popular old engineering term, it means 311 TMCfeet is all that we have in Goa. Mhadei hydropolitics has now entered a very critical phase. Probably, the last phase. The next phase projected over five years till A D 2023 would be incremental drying up of freshwater zones of all 11 river basins of Goa leading to inviting global tenders for setting up two mega desalination plants. In Goa politicians and NGOs protect interests of consumers of water who waste it.
In Karnataka and Maharashtra politicians protect interests of farmers who waste water on unsustainable, water guzzling cash crops. Both states have one thing in common- harp only on supply side and dismiss demand side management. Ironically the Prime Minister’s statement came when more than 100 villages in Goa are thirsting at present for drinking water supply. Goa government never does demand management during summer, so people are free to waste water. Traditionally in water demand supply equation – three sectors- domestic, irrigation and industrial are identified. A fourth sector has developed in Goa- transportation-or routine weekend washing of the vehicles. A two-wheeler needs 200 litres, a four-wheeler minimum 1,000 litres for washing, without a pressure hose. So, every week it’s a waste of 200 million litres of water to wash two wheelers and an equal amount for four wheelers, trucks, tempos and buses. By supporting the irrational, wasteful, water guzzling farming model in north Karnataka and by ignoring Goa’s genuine case against diversion of Mhadei river water to secure long-term water security, the Prime Minister Narendra Modiji has delivered a perfect pre- statehood (30th May) gift to Goa.
On August 21, 2014, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had thundered in Goa legislative assembly – “the government will fight at all levels to prevent the diversion of the water of Mhadei river by the Karnataka government”. Since 56 assembly constituencies are at stake in north Karnataka, one can understand the political compulsions behind the recent statement made by Narendra Modiji accusing Sonia Gandhi and the Congress Party for “opposing diversion of Mhadei waters” and taking the issue to the interstate water disputes tribunal. The location to make this statement was right but the timing was wrong especially because the honourable judges of Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal (MWDT) are busy in finalizing the award.
Since the PM of the country who is expected to be neutral on disputable interstate issues has made his mind known on Mhadei dispute, MWDT may come under undue political pressure. It’s no secret that with just three MPs Goa doesn’t make any difference in power equations at centre. Besides with the steady flow of royalties to central kitty from mining now dried up, the Centre may not have much economic interest in Goa. The MWDT would give its verdict anytime before its term expires on August 20, 2018.
In a series of articles, and in my capacity as a former non-official member of Government Panel Of Experts, (POE), 1999-2000 on the issue of diversion of Mhadei water and having worked on Master plans for utilization of water resources of Mhadei/Mandovi, Zuari and Talpona till AD 2050, I would attempt to show how Goa may lose its case before MWDT.
In 2000 our POE reported “the discharge of the Mhadei, when measured near its mouth in the non-monsoon season is 285 MCM/year (8.07 TMCfeet); and its total annual discharge is 3447 MCM/year (97.6 TMCfeet). Karnataka, as per its original plan made in 2002, aims to divert 214 MCM/year (7.56 TMCfeet).” Karnataka would consider the MWDT verdict favourable if 1. Mhadei basin is declared a surplus basin and it gets anywhere between 44 to 53 TMCfeet allocation 2. Ban on diversion lifted and out of basin transfer of water is permitted only for drinking water purposes. Goa government has never told what it means by a “fair verdict, fair allocation” from MWDT because it is expecting to lose the case that’s why the data presented before MWDT by Goa government has been hidden intentionally from media and public eye. MWDT would have the complex task of verifying different claims of total water resources in the basin- IIT Mumbai estimated 70 TMCfeet, IISc, Bengaluru experts claimed 253 TMCfeet, Central Water Commission (October 2001 and March 2003) estimated the total yield of water in the Mhadei basin as 199.6 TMCfeet at 75 per cent dependability or 220 TMCfeet at 50 per cent dependability. Before the MWDT, to best of our information, Goa government stuck to the figure of 109 TMCfeet at 75 percent dependability -an improvement of 11 TMCfeet as compared to our POE estimates in 2000.
So, let us be clear on this point. For a fair award from MWDT people of Goa should expect 1. Acceptance by MWDT that Mhadei river water basin is a deficit basin and rejection of any claim that it is a water surplus basin 2. From 1 it is automatically clear that out of basin diversion of Mhadei water needs to be banned permanently irrespective of claims made for drinking or irrigation 3. Order to stop work on Virdi irrigation project or any new projects by Maharashtra which affects the normal flow of Valvonta river an ecosensitive tributary in Mandovi river basin 4. If MWDT accepts claims of higher availability (200-253 TMCfeet) then allocation of Goa should not be less than 158 to 172 TMCfeet or 4424 to 4816 MCM. 5.
If MWDT accepts Goa’s claim of 109 TMCfeet- then allocation on basis of basin area, falls to 85 TMC feet or just 2380 MCM. Our POE had projected need of the basin within Goa till AD 2050 at 3673 MCM. So, a lower allocation would be disastrous. But from seven available theories or doctrines exactly which one MWDT would use to deliver its award?
These are- the doctrine of riparian rights, the prior-appropriation theory, the territorial-sovereignty theory, the natural water-now theory, the equitable apportionment theory, the community of interest theory, and the equitable -utilization theory. We shall examine each of these options before MWDT. (To be continued.)