Mhadei diversion letter kept in abeyance

| 21 September 2002 23:09 IST

While the dispute over releasing the Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu has complicated further, Karnataka has received a setback on yet another water dispute issue - diversion of Goa’s famous Mandovi river.

The centre has kept the controversial letter in abeyance, issued by the Central Water Commission to Karnataka five months ago, giving in-principle clearance to partly divert water of river Mhadei.

“This is our first victory”, claims chief minister Manohar Parrikar. Goa’s all-party delegation had urged prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to withdraw the letter and act against the officer who had issued such a letter.

Though around 80 per cent of Mhadei river - known as Mandovi later – flows through Goa, Karnataka plans to divert the water at its origin in its own territory, to Malprabha river. Goans are already up in arms against the plan, as this would result into the whole of North Goa getting dried up.

CWC secretary B N Nawalawala, in the meanwhile, had issued a letter to Karnataka on 30 April, one day prior to his retirement, granting in-principle clearance to divert 7.56 TMC of water for drinking purpose in Hubli and Dharwar.

Following objections from the Goa government and allegation that Nawalawala was gifted with an extension for the ‘illegal’ job, the secretary was shifted immediately. His controversial letter has also been now kept in abeyance.

The centre has also urged both the states to resolve the issue with an agreement, failing which the water resources ministry plans to set up a tribunal to settle the dispute. Goa however maintains its earlier stand not to allow any kind of diversion as it would spell ecological doom for the whole Sahyadri range.

Karnataka plans to construct at least seven dams and three hydroelectric projects, by diverting the water to river Malprabha. Goa covers 1580 sq kms of the catchment area of Mhadei basin while Karnataka covers only 375 sq kms. It also includes 76 sq kms of catchment area in Maharashtra.

Meanwhile, the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan has sought PM’s appointment in the first week of October, besides all other concerned union ministers. “Rather than throwing the ball in our court, the centre should play negotiator’s role and tell Karnataka to wind up the Mhadei project”, states Nirmala Sawant, the president.

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