Western Maharashtra has reason to cheer after the Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal on Thursday announced that the state would get 666 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) of water from the Krishna river, 81TMC more than what was allocated by the earlier tribunal.
The verdict will also fuel competition between the ruling alliance partners, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), over taking credit for what is likely to become a poll plank in the coming elections in the region.
Some of this competition was apparent on Thursday in the rush to break the news of the verdict to the media.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was quick to address journalists although he admitted that the government was yet to analyse the award report and could only give broad ‘first-cut’ reaction.
The minister in charge of the Maharashtra Krishna Valley Development Corporation (MKVDC), Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar, who is from the NCP, was in Delhi for the verdict.
Chavan told the media that the government had a mixed reaction to the verdict but the increase in water share and the use of additional 25TMC of Koyna water for power generation was good news.
“The increase in the height of the Almatty dam [in north Karnataka] is an area of concern because of the fear of flooding. But we will insist on a joint management committee for the dam so that the water level is increased in phases and not a single village, farm or road is flooded,’’ Chavan said.
Neighbouring states had earlier told the tribunal that Maharashtra should not be allowed to impound too much water because it had failed to build dams for it.
The fear of losing water due to this had led to the setting up of the MKVDC with an initial cost of Rs15,000 crore for 886 projects. The cost of the projects has ballooned to Rs50,000 crore since.
“We were able to convince the tribunal that we have built the infrastructure to impound and use our share of water,’’ Naik Nimbalkar told the Hindustan Times.
The Krishna water dispute has been festering in Western Maharashtra for the last 15 years.
The issue was a major poll plank in the 1999 elections and helped the NCP sweep the polls in the four affected districts of Sangli, Satara, Solapur and Kolhapur.
This affluent sugarcane belt is the bastion of the NCP but the Congress also has a traditional hold here and will be keen on challenging the NCP in the next polls.
Both, Chavan and his deputy, Ajit Pawar, come from this region.
The Western Maharashtra lobby will now bargain hard for additional water allocation to complete pending irrigation projects.