A water-sharing dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over the Mahandi is heating up after months of Centre-brokered negotiations couldn’t break a deadlock over the construction of controversial reservoirs.
Chhattisgarh wants to build six dams and inter-link some Mahanadi tributaries for better irrigation and storage of water for the lean months. Odisha says the dams will deplete water in its main reservoir, the Hirakud dam.
At a meeting of the two states at the Union water resources ministry last week, Chhattisgarh alleged that the under-construction barrages will have a total capacity of 274 (million cubic meter) MCM, much less than the amount of water lost from the Hirakud dam due to siltation.
“The differences are huge between the two states and could not be resolved,” a Union water ministry official said.
The Hirakud was built over the Mahanadi in 1957 to hold 5,518 MCM but has lost nearly a fifth of this capacity due to gathering silt. This means that the dam can’t store excess water and that water is wasted.
“What we are taking from Mahanadi is not from Odisha’s share. In fact, the live-storage capacity of our dams have also done down by 345 MCM due to siltation and storage capacity of new barrages would be less than that,” a Chhattisgarh government official said.
Chhattisgarh also claims Odisha’s own data shows non-monsoon water flow in the river has increased, meaning that the new projects don’t pose any danger to the Hirakud Dam.
But Odisha has contested this claim, saying Chhattisgarh had erred in treating the impact of each project separately and not in an integrated manner.
Water resources ministry officials say Odisha wants a cumulative impact study of all projects developed by Chhattisgarh on the flow of water to the Hirakud dam, rather than individual, on the grounds that these projects “dramatically” reduce the water flow.
“We have assured Odisha that the CWC will examine their claim that water flow to Hirakud dam will reduce if Chhattisgarh is allowed to build the projects,” the ministry official said.
Chhattisgarh, half of whose area falls in Mahanadi river basin, says some of these projects were approved by the Central Water Commission after seeking comments from Odisha and wouldn’t affect water flow. In addition, survey on four projects diverting water from Arpa river, a tributary of Mahanadi, and Pairi-Mahanadi river linking project has also started.
Complicating matters is a growing political rivalry between the Biju Janata Dal – which is in power in Odisha – and the BJP, which rules Chhattigarh.
The BJD has turned the Mahanadi dispute into a political issue to hit the BJP that aspires to form next government in one of the poorest states of India. Odisha chief minister Navin Patnaik has already met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party MPs stalled Lok Sabha proceedings for a day, accusing the Centre of being biased in favour of Chhattisgarh.