CWC stops Karnataka's Mhadei work

| 31 May 2001 23:16 IST

The Central Water Commission has directed Karnataka government to stop all activities related to diversion of water of river Mhadei, which originates in Karnataka but joins Arabian sea after passing through Goa and Maharashtra.

The first meeting of the three states, convened by the CWC this week, has set up a committee headed by the chief engineer (hydrology) of the CWC to prepare a database on the yield of Mhadei river.

The committee, to be represented by chief engineers of the irrigation departments of three states, would prepare a report within three months. The report would be considered the basis for discussion on the inter-state water dispute.

The CWC had convened the meeting in Delhi this week at the request of Goa government as Karnataka was marching ahead with its plans to divert water of river Mhadei in spite of repeated objections raised by the tiny tourist state.

"Though Karnataka was denying having taken up any construction activity, we brought it to the notice that they had begun preliminary work like surveying the forest area and acquiring land for the purpose of building dams and hydroelectric projects", stated A Venkataratnam, the state secretary for irrigation.

Karnataka plans to construct seven dams and three hydroelectric projects by diverting water of river Mhadei. Goa would be affected the most as the river, also known as Mandovi, would literally dry up.

Goa covers the major catchment area of 1580 sq kms of the Mhadei basin while Karnataka covers 375 sq kms. The catchment area in Maharashtra however is only 76 sq kms.

Goa has objected to the diversion of water from Mhadei basin to Malprabha river, which is part of the Krishna basin. As per the national guidelines, no water can be diverted from one basin to the other without an inter-state agreement.

"It would have been a different issue if the water of Mhadei basin was utilised within the basin itself. But the activity of diversion to another basin is blatant violation of the norm set up by the CWC", states Ramakant Khalap, the state water resources minister.

While Goa is relying upon the data of yield prepared by the Government of India, Karnataka is disputing it on the basis of its own data. As objections in this regard were raised once again at the meeting, the CWC has now decided to prepare the basic data through the committee.

S D Sayanak, the Goa irrigation CE, also objected to the Karnataka's plan to go ahead with construction activity unilaterally, without seeking consent of Goa and Maharashtra. "We are happy that a neutral agency would now decide the matter", stated Venkataratnam.

He also denied news reports that the CWC was convinced about Karnataka stand that they would utilise only 7.5 TMC out of the total 58 TMC. On the contrary, he said, Satish Chandran, the CWC member who chaired it, expressed displeasure over the way Karnataka was going ahead with the work.

The meeting was also attended by water resources ministry commissioner (inter-state projects) Shekhar, CWC director (inter-state basins) Chaitanya Murthy, Karnataka irrigation secretary S J Channabasappa and representatives of Maharashtra.

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