Karnataka At It Again

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Goa must fight to prevent the  diversion of Mhadei waters

The report that Karnataka has allegedly been diverting waters from the catchment areas of the Mhadei river via the Kalasa Banduri nullah to the Malaprabha river is disturbing. The alleged activity of Karnataka is in utter violation of the law. It shows that Karnataka has no regard for the Supreme Court which is hearing an earlier matter relating to its contravention of the court orders filed by the Goa government. The apex court is yet to give its verdict on the case. After the issue of diversion by Karnataka in violation of court orders was brought to the notice of the apex court, it had directed the state to maintain the status quo. The latest report on violations by Karnataka came to light following the visit of the volunteers of the Vivekanand Environment Awareness Brigade, a Sattari-based non-government organization, to the project area on Sunday after more than five months. It appears that despite the many restrictions in view of the coronavirus spread the Karnataka government carried on with the work and managed to ensure that it was completed to facilitate diversion of waters from the Mhadei to the Malaprabha basin via the Kalasa Banduri nullah.

The NGO team in its report said that the natural flow of water has been reversed through the Kalasa Banduri nullah and was taken through canals to eventually join the Malaprabha. The team also found that a conduit has been constructed, which has three openings, of which two help water from the Mhadei basin to flow, while the third is to maintain the water flow towards the Malaprabha. As fresh violations and changes in the status quo have been brought to the notice of the Goa government they should convey them to the apex court where the matter is slated to come on September 24. Last August Goa brought to the notice of the court that Karnataka had obstructed the natural flow of water at the mouth of the tributary of the Mhadei river that had resulted in reduction of the water flow towards Goa. The water has since been diverted towards the Malaprabha basin through guided reverse flow coupled with the deepening of the riverbed.

Since the dispute between Goa and Karnataka began more than two decades ago over the issue of diversion of water from the Mhadei river basin, Karnataka has violated several directions of the Supreme Court, the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal and the central authorities. The Karnataka government played a passive role when people in different parts of the state resorted to violence and arson whenever the rulings of the tribunal or apex court went in favour of Goa. The bullying tactics by the neighbouring state continued, even though the Goa government and the state’s political parties preferred to exercise restraint and raise the issue of violations before the judicial authorities. Since the time a letter was sent by former chief minister Manohar Parrikar in 2017 to B S Yediyurappa, who was then in opposition, pledging amicable settlement to the dispute between the two states so as to allow Karnataka to draw water from the Mhadei basin to meet its need for drinking water in the North Karnataka districts, the neighbouring state has tried to take advantage of the restraint of Goans.

Perhaps the size of Karnataka and the number of parliamentarians it sends to the Parliament often makes the central political leadership of the BJP give more weightage to it. Last year Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar granted environmental clearances for the Karnataka government’s project to divert water from the Mhadei river to the Malaprabha river for drinking water purposes. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had disputed that Karnataka could not be given the environmental clearance without hearing the Goa government. The Centre claimed that the letter was issued by a junior official but there has been no clarity on whether it was revoked or not. Though the issue has remained unresolved so far, Karnataka has gone ahead with the diversion of water. The state government must represent its case strongly at the Supreme Court and with the central government to prevent Karnataka from making an inter-basin diversion of water that could reduce water volumes in the Mhadei downstream.