The chief ministers of Odisha and Chhattisgarh will meet in Delhi on Saturday to hammer out an agreement on sharing Mahanadi water after the Centre stepped in to defuse simmering tensions between the two states.
The meeting was convened by Union water resources minister Uma Bharti, is hoping to avoid the kind of violent protests that have erupted in southern India over the Cauvery water-sharing dispute.
“We want to avoid the repeat of such a situation elsewhere,” a government official said.
The dispute started after Chhattisgarh started building dams across the river that flows through the two states.
Odisha says the new projects disrupt the flow of water to the Hirakud Dam, a major sources of irrigation to both the states. Chhattisgarh says the barrages only collect rain water and don’t affect the flow of the river.
“The barrages under construction on Mahanadi have a total capacity which is much less than the lost storage in Hirakud due to siltation. Hence no additional storage is being created,” the Chhattisgarh government has told the Centre.
Chhattisgarh has pointed out that the Mahanadi water flow is 96% during monsoon and 4% otherwise, so any barrage would essentially store rain water. “Even after so called disputed projects, enough water remains in the Mahanadi to fill the Hirakud Dam several times over,” it said.
Sources in the water resources ministry claim Odisha has also changed the scope of the dam by diverting water for industrial use, which was not envisaged at the time of the project’s inception.
Chhattisgarh also blames Odisha for constructing major dams in the Indravati sub-basin that it says will further worsen water availability in the tribal state. He two states had decided in April 1983 to set up a joint control board to resolve issues relating to survey, investigation, execution or others. This board has not been constituted so far and the two states might be asked to expedite the matter.
The spat comes at a time large-scale violence has broken out across Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over sharing Cauvery water after a Supreme Court order. At least two people have died and property worth crores damaged in strikes and protests, especially in India’s IT capital of Bengaluru.