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Saving Mhadei River

Goa government should seek stronger action against Karnataka for violations

GOA has taken a strong stand on the Mhadei: the state government is not going to make any out-of-the-court settlement with the other concerned states. The Goa government was recently advised by Union Minister for Mines Pralhad Joshi to settle the Mhadei water dispute through negotiations with Karnataka. Following Joshi’s ‘advice’ Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa went public stating that he would hold negotiations with Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to resolve the outstanding issues. Sawant rejected the idea, his office declaring there was no proposal for holding a meeting with Yediyurappa to discuss Mhadei issues. As a result Yediyurappa was forced to call off his plan to visit Goa. It is strange to note that an odd and accidental ‘advice’ from Joshi, who was obviously trying to help his Karnataka state in getting a bigger share of the Mhadei water, came when the matter had been already decided by the Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal.

Goa government has always rejected proposals for out-of-court settlement of the Mhadei water dispute. All chief ministers of the state reposed their faith in the judiciary. Politicians of Karnataka, especially those on the ruling side, are trying to sail in two boats at the same time. On one hand, Karnataka has appealed against the Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal order in the Supreme Court; on the other hand, the BJP government and ministers of the state are trying to exert influence on the Goa government for a negotiated settlement. Karnataka has in the past used the third option of mass protests to turn the course in their favour in the Mhadei dispute. They even resorted to arson and violence when the order of the tribunal did not go in the state’s favour. It is apparent that Karnataka leaders are continuing to bully Goa with Joshi showing adamancy in taking up the issue with Union Water Resources Minister after Sawant rejected his proposal. He has gone to accuse Sawant of having gone back on his word after agreeing to negotiate the issue.

Following dispute between Goa and Karnataka over diversion of water from Mhadei basin, the Union government set up a tribunal in 2010 which gave its verdict in 2018, which has since been challenged by Karnataka. Despite clear verdict Karnataka has been making all efforts to carry on with the diversion project even resorting to illegalities. Goa has so far stood its ground on saving the Mhadei, which is its lifeline, despite the bullying tactics by a much larger Karnataka state. The state BJP leadership in government and also the organization have shown maturity and sagacity in not buckling down under the pressures of the central leadership of the BJP and the party leaders in Karnataka. Sawant knows that all parties in the state are unanimous on protecting the interests of Goa in this regard. He need not let his guards down, nor should the BJP and the Congress and the other parties in Goa and ensure that Karnataka does not succeed in bullying Goa into submission over Mhadei issue using central leadership of BJP.

The Mhadei River has been the lifeline of people of North Goa. Yediyurappa had made resolution of the Mhadei water dispute a focal point ahead of last Assembly elections in Karnataka to resolve it by December 15, 2017. When he failed to resolve it, the central leadership of BJP urged the Goa government to consider releasing water to northern Karnataka. Every government that ruled the state has stayed firm to protect Mhadei. Like his predecessors Pramod Sawant too has declared that his government would not make even the smallest compromise on the nearly two-decade-old dispute over sharing of the water of the basin of the River Mhadei. When it comes to as vital issue as sharing of the Mhadei River there cannot be any compromise on party lines. No river becomes the property of a state if it flows through it. There are states downstream that depend on its waters for sustaining their agriculture, forests, aquatic life and ecology. As Karnataka has not adhered to the directives of judicial orders regarding prohibition on constructions to dam or divert the Mhadei River in the upper reaches, Goa should be wary of their sincerity in resolving issues thorough negotiations.

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