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Mahanadi-Godavari river link project: One should not be surprised if Odisha accepts the Union Govt's proposal
BJP-led NDA government's Mahanadi-Godavari link programme is a messy message. With its mellifluous words, government mauls to Mahanadi. The Union government should know it will create a midden for Mahanadi. Water Resources and Rivers Development Minister, Uma Bharati's upsurge ideas for Mahanadi-Godavari river link will bring uprising and upbraid for her ministry.

Finally if Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik will not notice it and allow Uma's uninviting Mahanadi Godavari link then in future Naveen will listen the uproar. Naveen should clear his every notion and notify to Uma and PM Narendra Modi. Otherwise for their 'naff' ideas Naveen will stand on notoriety.

As per the Feasibility Report on Mahanadi Godavari Link the total irrigation requirement at Dowlaiswaram barrage is 7775 Mm3. The yield available from the intermediate catchment between Polavaram and Dowlaiswaram is 833 Mm3. As per Feasibility report of Godavari (Polavaram) - Krishna (Vijayawada) link project proposed by NWDA, the irrigation requirement under the Dowlaiswaram barrage to be met from Polavaram is 442 Mm3.

The balance requirement which works out to 6500 Mm3 is to be met with surplus Mahanadi waters proposed to be diverted through Mahanadi-Godavari link canal from Manibhadra reservoir to the Dowlaiswaram barrage in twelve months.

Leaving aside the implementation issues, linking of Mahanadi with Godavari has never been considered to be based on sound logic and beneficial to the state of Odisha. Barring a few Engineers who are a bit over awed by the engineering marvel aspect of the interlinking, there are hardly any takers of this link project.

First of all interlinking of the rivers is based on the principle of transferring water from the surplus basins to deficit basins. But is Mahanadi a surplus basin ? It is a million dollar question. Even during the recent deliberations on interlinking, the Water Resources Department has been instructed to investigate the same and check the feasibility of interlinking.

It is to be noted that just a decade back Department of Water Resources had come out with Odisha State Water Plan that was a culmination of the spiral studies of the 11 river basins of Odisha conducted under the Odisha State Water Resources Consolidation project supported by the World Bank. And under the project the department was supported for developing the database on water resources. But when it comes to the question if Mahanadi has surplus water or not, the State government is still not sure of the amount of water surplus in the river.

On 2nd of June the Director of Water Planning in the Water Resources Department Mr. Biswamohan Acharya has issued orders to the departmental officials for a fresh survey on the water availability in all the 11 river basins in the state. Post monsoon most of the river beds are dry. In such a situation the water requirements like drinking water, irrigation and industries could not be met. A report by the Odisha Water Resources Department in 2001 had painted a gray picture for the year 2051.

In such a context diversion of 12,165 Mm3 of water to the link canal out of which 6,500 Mm3 of water will be diverted to Godavari is certainly not in the best interest of the state. Had the Water Resources Department done its home work properly, it should not have delay dallied in saying a stern no to the proposal of Mahanadi-Godavari link.

One does not have to dig deep into the Water Plan even, the Feasibility Report prepared by the NWDA gives enough clue about the water balance in river Mahanadi. It claims that net water balance at 75% dependability is 22,058 Mm3 based on the data between 1902-03 to 1997-98 and 10,793 Mm3 based on the post Hirakud data (1958-59 to 1997-98).

The total demands to be met from Manibhadra reservoir excluding reservoir evaporation losses of 640 Mm3 (average) have been worked out to be 18836 Mm3. This includes 6671 Mm3 of water for the downstream irrigation demand in the delta and 12165 to be diverted through the link canal. While there are only 22,058 Mm3 based on the data between 1902-03 to 1997-98, 18836 Mm3 is required at Manibhadra. But if the water availability in Mahanadi follows the pattern as per the data between 1902-03 to 1997-98, then the link canal is feasible.

If Mahanadi follows the 1958-59 to 1997-98 pattern then how Manibhadra will manage 18836 Mm3 of water is a riddle that has to be solved. With the changed climatic conditions the chances of the long period flow being maintained in river Mahanadi seems to be remote possibility. That is if the water flow in Mahanadi follows the recent trend then the transfer of 12165 Mm3 of water is not feasible and the downstream irrigation in the delta also is not possible.

Post Hirakud data is for last 38 years and should be considered as reliable. While the feasibility report poses that there is enough water for diversion, it also has the great plan to utilize the water of Hirakud to meet any shortfall at Manibhadra.

And what will be more intriguing is the water sharing arrangement if there is shortfall in water in Mahanadi once the project is implemented. Will the state have the option of not supplying water in the link canal to Godavari basin unless and until total water requirement of the stake holders have been met? That is quite unlikely.

Tapan Padhee, repute water management expert of Odisha says, "There is not enough water as per the post Hirakud flow calculations. But that is not all. The calculations of surplus water have been done after deducting the utilization of the water in the existing projects, on going projects and the proposed projects. That in a way seals any future development of irrigation in the basin if it already has not been done or proposed. So the link is planning to divert water of Mahanadi even without utilizing the full potential of the basin. That is a sin against the state of Odisha."

Further Padhee added, "It is a pity that the state government does not know how much surplus water is available in the river Mahanadi. It is supposed to have such figures and more so after so much of investment during the Water Resources Consolidation Project and preparations of Stage Water Plan. The state government is simply buying time before giving a nod. It has to give a nod, after succumbing to the pressure from the Centre. And Odia leaders are not known much for protecting the interest of the state on the water front."

While practically it seems that there is not much water available for diversion, no sane politician in Odisha should agree to the proposal of offering 6500 Mm3 water to Andhra Pradesh on a silver platter at a huge cost to the state. But the politicians of Odisha, irrespective of the parties they belong to, have the history of getting into water agreements with the neighbouring states that is detrimental to the interest of the state. And if the present posturing of Naveen Patnaik is any indication, one should not be astonished if Odisha accepts the link proposal.

Odisha government has indicated that if the project is beneficial to the displaced families and no village is affected for the link canal and the Centre declares it as a national project and bears the total cost of the project then the state may consider the proposal. It contradicts the earlier positioning of the government that it will take a call on the proposal only after ascertaining the availability of surplus water in river Mahanadi.

While there are rumors of a secret deal between the BJP at the centre and BJD in the state to support each other, it will not shock the average Odias if the state government agrees to the proposal of the centre.

There are also efforts by Union Minister for Water Resources to back it up. Water Resources and Rivers Development Minister, Uma Bharati while presenting her one year report card in a press conference was categorical about mentioning that the project displaced persons from Pollavaram from Andhra Pradesh as well as Odisha will be rehabilitated properly in the line of Sardar Sarovar project. She did not forget to mention that environmental public hearing for Pollavaram could not be held in Malkangiri district of Odisha due to the Naxal problem there.

This is not true, AP government simply did not bother to conduct this hearing, but Uma Bharti had to do this to smother the bruised feeling of Odisha, as after repeated complaints and appeals the Centre did not take any cognizance and sanctioned environmental clearance.

The water resources minister also shared that Jaica is supporting Rs 1787 crores for the Rangali left canal and funds are being made available to the state under flood protection work and AIBP. These are the efforts by the minister to woo the Odisha government to agree for the link. May be the writing on the wall is clear.


Also Read: Mahanadi-Godavari river link: Why NDA desperate to go ahead with the project when Odisha is yet to decide on it?

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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