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HomeExplainerAmit Shah Claims BJP Resolved Mahadayi River Dispute, But What Are The...

Amit Shah Claims BJP Resolved Mahadayi River Dispute, But What Are The Facts?

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Vasudha noticed the growing problem of mis/disinformation online after studying New Media at ACJ in Chennai and became interested in separating facts from fiction. She is interested in learning how global issues affect individuals on a micro level. Before joining Newschecker’s English team, she was working with Latestly.

(The article was originally published by Prasad Prabhu in Newschecker Marathi.)

Amit Shah’s attempt to woo the voters of North Karnataka ahead of elections in the state later this year has triggered political turbulence in neighbouring Goa, also ruled by the  BJP. Addressing a rally at Belagavi last month, the Union Home Minister applauded his party for “resolving” the long-standing Mahadayi water dispute between the two states.

But what is the Mahadayi water dispute? What is its legal status? Has it really been resolved as Amit Shah claimed? Newschecker attempts to answer these questions, critical to the upcoming Karnataka polls.

What Did Amit Shah Exactly Say?

While addressing a BJP election rally in Belagavi, Shah said, “…I want to congratulate Karnataka leaders and the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister, in collaboration with the Bharatiya Janta Party’s Goa government, did a great job of providing Mahadayi water to the thirsty land of the state.” He further said, “Today, I want Madam Sonia Gandhi to recall her speech in Goa in 2007, when she had said that she would not allow the Mahadayi water to be diverted to Karnataka. In its 2022 manifesto, the Congress had said it would ensure that Karnataka does not get even a drop of Mahadayi water…I have come to inform you that the Bharatiya Janata Party did a great job for the farmers of many districts of Karnataka by resolving the long-standing dispute between the two states (Goa and Karnataka) and giving Mahadayi water to Karnataka.”

Amit Shah’s statement on Mahadayi can be seen here.

A longer version of his speech can be seen here.

Shah’s remark indicated that the Goa and Karnataka governments- both BJP ruled states- have reached a consensus on the long-standing Mahadayi dispute, and water from the river can now be channelised to Karnataka. By stating the issue has been resolved, the statement suggests that Goa government’s opposition on sharing Mahadayi water with neighbouring Karnataka has now been withdrawn. But this is not what the facts indicate.

What is The Mahadayi Water Dispute ?

The river Mahadayi (also called Mhadei or Mandovi) originates inside the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in the Belagavi district of Karnataka and flows into the Arabian Sea in Goa.

A map by the Goan Observer and the Google Maps image presents a complete picture of the basin and the proposed project by the Karnataka government

Screengrab from Goan observer
Screengrab from Google View

In the 1980s, a project was proposed to build barrages on Kalasa and Banduri (Bandura) streams, tributaries of Mahadayi, and divert its water towards Karnataka’s parched districts – Belagavi, Dharwad, Bagalkot and Gadag. The project, however, didn’t take off owing to a dispute among Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra.

In 2002 the Karnataka government-led by Congress’ SM Krishna decided to revive the project with clearance from the Union government. 

Advocate General of Goa, Devidas Pangam explains the source, basin and exact location of Mahadayi river 

Explaining the project by the Karnataka government in detail, Dainik Pudhari’s local journalist Vasudev Chougule said, “Mahadayi originates from Khanapur taluka of Belgaum district. The water of Kalasa and Bandura drains into Goa. Of these, Kalasa is near Kankumbi, 37 km from Khanapur, while Bandura is at Nersa, 12 km from Khanapur. The Government of Karnataka is trying to build dams on both these streams and release this water through the canal to the Malaprabha river flowing from Khanapur.”

Chougule added, “Although the work on Kalasa canal has been completed, the Goa government’s opposition to it has been problematic. If the water of these two canals is prevented from going to Goa, it will affect the Mahadayi river bed and the fishery industry will be in trouble and will also escalate the drinking water crisis. Due to this Goa government is opposing this project. The locals are opposed to this project as the natural beauty of the Western Ghats will be disturbed and the villages on the banks of the river such as Khanapur, Asoga, Yadoga, Baloga, Kuppatgiri etc. will face flood crisis due to the increase of water in the insufficient capacity of the Malaprabha river. “

Rajendra Kerkar, an environmentalist who has been involved in this movement since the beginning, told Newschecker, “We are against this project as it is completely dangerous for nature, wildlife and environment. The project falls in the Chorla Reserve Forest area. It also passes through Mhadei Sanctuary notified in 1999. The region has been declared an ecologically sensitive area by the Kasturirangan Committee.

“The project is completely illegal in the eyes of the Central Forest, Environment and National Board of Wildlife. The trap cameras installed by the regional forest department in Kankumbi since a decade have officially revealed the presence of tigers in the area. It is wrong to plan six dams and three canal projects in this area which includes tiger habitat. Tree plantation is needed in the catchment areas to revive the Malaprabha. The Wildlife Act, 1972 is being violated and it is difficult to get all the permits,” he added.

Project On Hold After Parrikar Approached Centre

In 2002, the Goa government then led by Manohar Parrikar, approached the Centre and urged it to establish a Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal to assess the situation and allocate water to the three states involved in the dispute. The clearance for the project was then put on hold by the Union government citing concerns of ecological damage and protests by Goa.

The dispute escalated in 2006 when the Karnataka government – JD(S) & BJP coalition- decided to revive the project again without the Centre’s nod. Following which, Goa approached the Supreme Court and sought the creation of a Tribunal to settle the water sharing dispute, which was eventually set up by the UPA government in 2010.

Also Read: 22-Year-Old Killed For Not Speaking Urdu? No, Karnataka Home Minister Makes False Claim, Retracts It Later, Triggers Misinformation Online

The Water Tribunal’s Decision And Subsequent Case In SC

In 2018, the tribunal awarded 13.42 tmc (1000 million cubic feet) of water from the Mahadayi river basin to Karnataka, 1.33 tmc to Maharashtra, and 24 tmc to Goa, The News Minute reports. The allocation was also notified by the Union government in February 2020, the report further notes.

It added, “Despite the ongoing legal issues, the Karnataka government has now announced its intention to proceed with the project, after receiving clearance from the Central Water Commission (CWC). However, it is still awaiting clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change. 

“CWC has stated that its clearance is subject to the decisions in the three SLPs that were filed in the Supreme Court by the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Goa. These petitions concern the final verdict on the project issued by the Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal in 2018.”

Following this, the Goa government approached the Supreme Court challenging the Central Water Commission’s (CWC) approval of the Karnataka government’s detailed project report (DPR) for the construction of dams on Mahadayi river which will lead to diversion of Mahadayi river water into Karnataka. The apex court is due to hear the matter on February 13.

Bommai’s Statement Of ‘Victory’ And Sawant’s Rush To Delhi

The matter once again came to the spotlight in December 2022 when Karnataka CM Bommai, months ahead of the Karnataka Assembly Polls, announced that the centre has approved the Kalasa-Banduri Dam project in the state. He termed this approval as a “victory” for the 30-year-long struggle of the farmers and a “gift” from PM Narendra Modi to the people of the region.

Following Bommai’s “victory” announcement, a Goa government delegation led by CM Pramod Sawant met Amit Shah and urged for the immediate constitution of a water management authority to resolve the issue of diversion of the Mahadayi river water. Goa government also sought withdrawal of the Central Water Commission’s decision to sanction the Detailed Project Report (DPR) submitted by Karnataka for construction of two dams on the Mahadayi river.

However, just weeks after the Shah-Sawant meet up, the Union Minister while addressing a Karnataka polls rally in the end January boasted of Bommai “resolving” the Mahadayi conflict, prompting the political temperature in Goa to spike.  Shah’s statement has put Goa CM Pramod Sawant in the line of fire with opposition leaders asking for his resignation.

Sawant assured the people of Goa through his tweets stating that his government will protect the state’s interest. He tweeted, “We have asked for an early hearing by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Mhadei matter. We will continue to fight for every drop of water that rightfully belongs to Goa. The DPR of Karnataka has also not received the necessary environment clearances. I assure the people of Goa that my Government will protect Goa’s interests.”

The Goa CM’s tweet demanding an “early hearing” on the issue speaks volume on Shah’s statement on resolving the Mahadayi water dispute.

What Is The Status Of The Court Case?

Newschecker reached out to Goa Government Advocate General, Devidas Pangam to understand the present situation of the legal battle over Mahadayi. Pangam said, “Karnataka is trying to syphon off our water by saying that they have got a permission from the Central Water Commission and we have challenged this in the Supreme Court. The hearing will be held soon. Karnataka cannot divert such water from the Mahadayi Sanctuary, which is prohibited by law in violation of the Wildlife Protection Act. This is the law of the central government and these attempts are illegal.”

He added, “This subject does not come up in the Central Water Commission. It is clearly written in the Mahadayi Tribunal that this project cannot be done if a permission is obtained. The permissions of the Ministry of Forests and Environment are equally important and the court battle over them will continue.” 

Meanwhile, Senior advocate Mohan Kataraki, who represented Karnataka in the Supreme Court, told Newschecker, “No notice has yet been issued regarding the petition submitted by the Goa government in the Supreme Court. In this regard, there will be an argument in the court for the rights of Karnataka. A clear decision in this regard can be taken after the notification.”

Talking on Karnataka’s stand on Goa’s objection to the Central Water Commission’s permission, Kataraki said, “We have not received any notice about Goa’s objection and we will take the necessary legal process only after that. Also it would be better to talk about it later.”  The article will be updated upon receiving his further comments on the same.

Conclusion

There has not been any official communication stating that the Karnataka government’s project has received full approval from the authorities. The dispute regarding the permission of this project is still pending in the Supreme Court at the time of writing this article. Hence, Shah’s claim of the Mahadayi water dispute being resolved is misleading.

Sources

Facebook Live Stream Of Amit Shah’s Speech By Belagavisuddi
YouTube Video By RDXGOA GOA NEWS, Dated January 15, 2023
Report By The Indian Express, Dated January 3, 2023
Report By The News Minute, Dated January 4, 2023
Conversation With Environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar
Conversation With Advocate General Of Goa Devidas Pangam
Conversation With Advocate General Of Karnataka Advocate Mohan Kataraki


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Authors

Vasudha noticed the growing problem of mis/disinformation online after studying New Media at ACJ in Chennai and became interested in separating facts from fiction. She is interested in learning how global issues affect individuals on a micro level. Before joining Newschecker’s English team, she was working with Latestly.

Vasudha Beri
Vasudha Beri
Vasudha noticed the growing problem of mis/disinformation online after studying New Media at ACJ in Chennai and became interested in separating facts from fiction. She is interested in learning how global issues affect individuals on a micro level. Before joining Newschecker’s English team, she was working with Latestly.

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