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Odisha-Chhattisgarh Mahanadi water dispute: Will states stop siphoning Mahanadi waters?
The states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh are presently fighting a bitter water war for establishing their rights over the waters of the river Mahanadi.

Although two years have passed but here is no respite as yet. Rather the things are getting complicated with each passing day with the Odisha government on one hand moving the apex court in November 2016 with a prayer to restrain Chhattishgarh from any further construction work on the six barrages which are presently under construction across Mahanadi and on the other approaching the Union government to constitute a Tribunal to settle the water dispute between the two states.

Odisha has been alleging that the barrages are being constructed with a view to supply huge quantity of water throughout the year to various industries and thermal power plants by pumping water from the barrages. The apex court is yet to hear the case, and the Union government, rather than heading straight for the procedures for the constitution of the Tribunal has proposed the formation of a negotiations committee that has raised hackles in Odisha.

Trouble arose in July 2016 when BJD MPs of Odisha raised an uproar in the Lower House of the Parliament on the issue of proposed unauthorized and much excess use of Mahanadi water by Chhattisgarh state thereby depriving downstream Odisha's Hirakud and connected projects which are functioning since the 50s and are mandated to utilize 12.28 million cubic meters of water throughout the year as per the Detailed Project Report (DPR). Sooner than expected these allegations got politicised as 'central neglect' has been a pet issue for the ruling BJD government in Odisha. Panchayat elections round the corner, rather enthused, the BJD leaders and cadres alike are humming the same tune.

The ruling party in the state blamed that the Centre, ruled by the NDA alliance has been turning a blind eye to the contention of Odisha as Chhattisgarh is under BJP rule. To wash itself clean, the state unit of the BJP tried to establish that at different points of time the Odisha government was informed about the construction of the dams and barrages upstream but it failed to act appropriately. So, the Odisha BJP has been on overdrive to prove the neglect by the BJD government.

After the dispute was raised by Odisha in the Parliament in July 2016, the Central government arranged a meeting between both the Chief Secretaries on 29 July 2016, but this was no forum for any negotiations or discussions on critical aspects of the dispute.

GOI proposed the setting up of a Joint Control Board and Chhattisgarh agreed to it. The representatives of Odisha did not commit anything in the meeting and afterwards rejected it stating that JCB will be a toothless organization. The Union minister of WR & GR Uma Bharti arranged a tripartite meeting, in which both the CMs and she herself participated in Delhi on 17 September 2016, but it ended abruptly with Odisha asking Chhattisgarh to stop work on barrages, to which Chhattisgarh refused. The Union minister told the Odisha CM that she had no authority under the law to restrain Chhatisgarh to stop the work. She stated that the work on barrages had started several years ago and had now reached the completion stage but Odisha never objected to it earlier. It may be worthwhile to mention here that the subject of construction of barrages was discussed earlier in the Odisha Assembly and it was assured to the house that any number of barrages constructed in Chhattishgarh would not affect Odisha.

The CM of Odisha Naveen Patnaik, thereafter, wrote to the Hon'ble Prime Minister asking him to intervene in the issue, but the PM preferred to remain silent without even replying. Finding no other alternative, the Odisha government decided to approach the Union Ministry (MOWR), Government of India (GOI) as per Section 3 of the Inter State River Dispute (ISRWD) Act, 1956 in December 2016, demanding constitution of a Tribunal to adjudicate the dispute between both the states.

Mahanadi is an inter-state river and any dispute between the co-basin states regarding water sharing can only be settled by a Tribunal as per Article 262 of the Constitution of India, read with the ISRWD Act, 1956. In response to this letter of Odisha, MOWR decided to constitute 11 member committee consisting of representatives from all the co-basin states of Chhattisgarh, Maharastra, MP, Jharkhand and Odisha besides some other consultants and professionals. This committee was named as 'negotiation committee'.

Odisha government recently rejected the formation of the negotiation committee alleging that the Central government is delaying the process of constitution of the Tribunal to give scope to Chhattisgarh to complete all their works in the mean time. It also has objected to the representation of Maharashtra and Jharkhand, states which put together even do not account for 0.5 per cent of the basin area of Mahanadi. And the other cause citied by the Odisha CM is that this proposal for the formation of the negotiation committee does not have the pre-condition of stopping the construction of work by Chattishgarh.

Earlier, the Odisha government had also appealed in the Supreme Court for stopping the construction work by Chhattishgarh and safeguarding the interests of Odisha. Naveen Patnaik also wrote a letter to the PM on the subject that the Union government is delaying the matter to help Chhatisgarh. He also suggested to the PM that if a meeting is convened by him to discuss on the subject, he will attend the same to resolve the dispute. He stated that the people of Odisha are greatly agitated because of the unjust action of the Union government of favouring Chhattisgarh.

(To be concluded.)

You can also read: BJP blemished and beleaguered over Mahanadi water dispute

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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