Karnataka determined on Mhadei diversion

| 12 May 2001 23:17 IST

Karnataka appears determined to go ahead with its plans to divert waters of Mhadei, originating in the southern state, which would affect Goa as well as Konkan region of Maharashtra.

Karnataka irrigation minister H K Patil, who was here in connection with the organisational work of the Congress, dubbed objections of Goa and Maharashtra for the diversion plans as pure misconceptions.

"I am confident these wrong assumptions would be cleared once our team of technical experts meets Goan experts", he said, wondering why Goa is not responding to the meeting in spite of sending reminders in this regard.

Ramakant Khalap, the state irrigation minister, however said he is still awaiting technical details from Karnataka regarding the Mhadei basin, which would create a basis for bilateral talks. "They are still not supplying the data", he adds.

Patil however skipped a reply when asked why Karnataka did not attend the tripartite meeting fixed by the Central Water Commission in Delhi on 18 April to discuss the issue threadbare. "It was postponed", he said, hiding a fact that it got postponed since Karnataka did not turn up.

It is now fixed up for 18 May, to be attended by the state irrigation secretaries. The ministers of the affected states are also meeting on 22 May, convened by the working group of the CWC. "I will raise the issue there", states Khalap.

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.

"Both Goa and Maharashtra would benefit from the project", states Patil, claiming that the water left unused in the Arabian sea could be shared by all the three states by mutual agreement. He admits that the project would primarily benefit Hubli and Dharwar districts, where water is becoming scarce day by day.

Rather than giving a commitment that Karnataka would rethink about the project proposal if convinced that Goa would be severely affected, Patil shot back : "why should I simply assume that it is harmful to Goa ?"

Instead of replying to the pointed questions, Patil kept on harping upon the report submitted in 1997 by Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, which gives clean chit to the Karnataka proposal.

Prof Rajendra Kerkar, secretary of the Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan, however states that the whole report is misguiding as the technical details and data prepared by NEERI is contrary to what actually exists in the Mhadei basin.

"We are the best neighbours. We do not want to bulldoze Goa as is being projected", says Patil. He however also claims that many former chief ministers were convinced about the project and had even agreed to water sharing proposals in the past.

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