Goa wants courts to decide Mhadei issue

| 24 July 2002 23:13 IST

Goa is seeking setting up of a judicial tribunal by the centre to resolve the inter-state water diversion issue of river Mhadei with Karnataka.

Simultaneously, the tiny western state is also planning to approach the Supreme Court, demanding stay on commencing any kind of construction for dams or hydroelectric projects by Karnataka, in the Mhadei basin.

With the two-point agenda, an all-party delegation will now meet union water resource minister Arjun Sethi on 26 July. Almost all the parties unanimously supported chief minister Manohar Parrikar on the issue, at a meeting held here yesterday.

The anxiety was visible here as Karnataka has already started surveying the areas and little construction work has also begun in the forest area where Mhadei basin originates in Karnataka. The southern state also plans to divert the water to river Malprabha.

Mhadei originates in the forests of Karnataka but flows mainly through Goa to join the Arabian sea as river Mandovi. Karnataka however plans to construct at least seven dams and three hydroelectric projects, by diverting the waters to river Malprabha.

The official figures indicate that Goa covers the catchment area of 1580 sq kms of the Mhadei basin while Karnataka covers only 375 sq kms. It also includes 76 sq kms of catchment area, which falls in Maharashtra.

The long-pending issue suddenly gained momentum with central water resources ministry secretary B N Nawlawala issuing a letter to the Karnataka government in March, allowing them to utilise 7.56 TMC of water of Mhadei basin for drinking purpose in Hubli and Dharwar districts.

Terming it premature, Parrikar demanded immediate withdrawal of the letter as well as stringent disciplinary action against Nawalawala, even by approaching prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. However, there has been no positive response in this regard so far.

The Mhadei Bachao Manch, a local organisation set up to fight the issue, has meanwhile also started mobilising public opinion across the border in Karnataka, while public meetings have begun all over the state in protest of Karnataka's sinister designs.

Besides destroying the whole ecological balance in the Sahyadri ghat if the water is diverted, almost the whole of North Goa will turn into a desert as Mhadei is considered a lifeline for the whole belt - from forest to the coast. It ultimately merges into the Arabian sea as the picturesque Mandovi river in Panaji.

The state water resources secretary would thus now officially demand setting up of a judicial tribunal to decide the issue, under provisions of section 3 of the Inter-state Water Disputes Act, 1956.

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