Centre intervenes to resolve Mhadei dispute

| 04 April 2001 23:18 IST

The central water commission has convened a meeting of three states - Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa - to discuss the inter-state water dispute over diversion of river Mhadei by constructing seven dams in Karnataka forest.

The meeting, to be held on 18 April in Delhi, would however primarily discuss only two projects - the Kalsa dam project near Kankumbi and Bhandurinala project near Nerse - worth Rs 93.27 crore. It would be attended by state irrigation secretaries.

While informing the media about the meeting convened for the first time by the centre, state water resources minister Ramakant Khalap said the CWC has also confirmed that none of these projects have been approved by the central authorities.

While no proposals have been received by the CWC for techno-economic approval appraisal, the central authority has also clarified that the proposal for Mhadei hydro electro project was sent back to Karnataka for want of inter-state agreement in 1991.

Registering protest against Karnataka's move to divert Mhadei water without consulting the affected states of Goa and Maharashtra, Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar had recently urged prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to intervene into the matter.

By diverting water of river Mhadei, which originates in the forests of the southern state, Karnataka plans to construct seven dams and three hydroelectric projects. As a result, 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 is only 76 sq kms, but Goa has succeeded in making another bigger state part of the dispute to fight the southern state.

According to Khalap, the plan is to divert Mhadei water to Malprabha river, which actually forms part of the Krishna river basin. To divert water from one basin to another, he points out that no such attempt can be made without an inter-state agreement.

Veerappa Moily, Karnataka's former chief minister, in the meanwhile told the media during his Goa visit last week that water would not be diverted by going against the interest of Goa and Goans. He however admitted that work on two projects has already begun as drying up of Malprabha river has severely affected the farmers there.

Though Karnataka seems to be determined over diverting the Mhadei water, environmentalists from the southern state have also vehemently opposed all the projects. A joint meeting of nature lovers from all the three states held in Goa on Sunday has in fact decided to begin mass awareness campaign over it in all the three states.

It would primarily begin with local panchayats taking resolution and sending it to the prime minister as well as central environment ministry, opposing any such project as it would severely affect the ecological system of the western ghat region.

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