The August 14, 2018 award of the Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal, which proved advantageous to Goa, now seems to have come under severe threat, following the recent act of the central government to seek nine clarifications from the Tribunal on its particular order, out of which seven clarifications are clearly in favour of Karnataka.
In its order passed on August 14, 2018, the Tribunal had allowed 5.04 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) of water to Karnataka of which 3.5 TMC could be diverted, besides allowing 1.5 TMC of water to Maharashtra and 33.395 TMC of water to Goa in addition to no limit of non consumptivity, with 144 TMC still remaining in the Mhadei river.
Maharashtra and Karnataka had challenged the award before Tribunal, while Goa had filed a substantive application under Section 5(3) of the Inter State Water Disputes Act before it. A related hearing was held earlier this week, when state Advocate General Dattaprasad Lawande represented Goa.
The Tribunal, at the hearing wanted to know the legal position of the related case presently before the Supreme Court, and whether it (Tribunal) should await the judgment of the apex court or not. The Tribunal wanted to know the expert opinion in the matter and invited Additional Solicitor General of India, Atmaram Nadkarni, who appeared before the Tribunal around noon on the day of this hearing.
Nadkarni placed his view before the Tribunal stating that the Tribunal needs to wait till a go ahead signal is received from the Supreme Court. All the concerned parties agreed to this suggestion.
However, it was found during this hearing that the Union of India has filed an application under Section 5(3) of the Inter State Water Disputes Act, referring 9 points for clarification by the Tribunal, out of which 7 points clearly supporting Karnataka. This is an unprecedented act from the central government, which has earlier never interfered in the work of any such Tribunal.
The Union of India has sought clarification on as to whether the consumptive use of water at the proposed Mahadayi Hydro-Electric Project should be restricted to the actual water availability, as also on the water availability from catchment area of Goa, both in the report and decision.
Clarification is also sought as to whether Central Water Commission (CWC) is to technically appraise minor irrigation and/ or municipal water supply projects also, and if yes, then which aspects need to be examined by the CWC in respect of minor irrigation and/ or municipal water supply projects.
Furthermore, the central government has asked the Tribunal to give clarification as regards permission given to Goa to go ahead for 59 identified water resources development projects. It has also maintained that in the future few of these projects may have to be abandoned due to various reasons or few of the projects may have to be split into more than one projects, with such scenarios reducing or increasing the number of projects from those mentioned in the order of the Tribunal, which may pose difficulty in implementation of the order.
The other clarification is sought on the total requirement of water for Hubli-Dharwad twin cities, as the same is mentioned in the order of the Tribunal as 5.2 TMC, at the same time mentioning about overall demand of 4.08 TMC of water (for the city).
The Union of India has further asked clarification about the consumptive use of water of Mahadayi basin for different purposes, as also complete layout drawing of the Mahadayi river basin with its report and/ or decision to make the report and decision fully comprehensible, while indicating that no drawing/ map of this basin is attached in the report or decision of the Tribunal.
Another clarification sought pertains to introduction of flexibility in the order of the Tribunal, so as to address a situation wherein basin states – Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra – which could be in a position to undertake developmental activities to enhance the level of utilisation from that specified by the Tribunal, but at the same time, because of the restrictions placed by the Tribunal, unable to do so.
Finally, the Union of India points out certain typographical errors in the report, requesting the Tribunal to rectify the same.
The particular development has been communicated to the state government by Standing Counsel Santosh Rebello.
The state government now needs to view the particular development very seriously and work at the political level, to ensure that implementation of the order by the Tribunal is not prevented through the interference of the central government. The absence of Manohar Parrikar in the state government makes this task further difficult.
Interestingly, the Ministry of Water Resources, under which the Tribunal has been set up, is headed by Nitin Gadkari, who is the Goa in-charge of the Bharatiya Janata Party.