Goa CM under fire as Shah confirms Mhadei pact

ByGerard de Souza, Panaji
Jan 30, 2023 11:27 PM IST

“We do not agree or accept the comments of Amit Shah because no such discussions have taken place. The issue is before the court and we have a strong case,” water resources minister Subhash Shirodkar said.

Under pressure to rebut Union home minister Amit Shah’s statement that Goa was part of an “agreement” to share water with Karnataka, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant maintained a guarded silence on the issue, treading a fine line between defending Goa’s cause and stopping short of contradicting the Union minister’s claim of an agreement on the issue.

Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant (ANI)
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant (ANI)

“Our legal case is strong. The results will be seen soon. We are certainly working to fight for our cause,” Sawant said on the sidelines of an official function on Monday when asked about Shah’s comments in Karnataka on Saturday that Goa had agreed to share water of the river with Karnataka.

However, his water resources minister Subhash Shirodkar said that the Goa government has not ‘agreed’ to any pact with Karnataka for the diversion of water.

The Mhadei issue that continues to simmer after the Central Water Commission accorded its approval to Karnataka’s project proposal to divert the west flowing tributaries that make up the Mhadei (spelt Mahadayi in Karnataka) to the east flowing Malaprabha river, reignited over the weekend after Shah claimed that the BJP deserved credit for ‘solving’ the Mhadei issue.

“I am pleased to tell you that the BJP government has managed to find a solution to the long pending dispute between Goa and Karnataka. By giving Mhadei water to Karnataka, the BJP government has done a great job for the sake of the farmers from several districts of Karnataka,” Shah had said at a rally in Belgaum on Saturday evening.

“The Chief Minister (B S Bommai) has done a commendable job of diverting the Mhadei water to Karnataka by taking the Goa government into confidence for quenching the third of farmers in Karnataka,” Shah added, referring to the Centre’s approval for the project -- a move that has been countered by the Goa government that has sought an early hearing before the Supreme Court challenging the approvals granted to Karnataka.

Karnataka goes to the polls this summer.

Goa water resources minister was categorical in his rebuttal of the claim of an agreement.

“We do not agree or accept the comments of Amit Shah because no such discussions have taken place. The issue is before the court and we have a strong case,” Shirodkar said.

The Congress accused the BJP of “chicanerous betrayal” and of politicising the issue that has now revitalised opposition to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. The hashtag #ResignPramodSawant was used to rally voices on social media against the statements.

“The claim made by Amit Shah is shocking, especially that the matter is resolved along with the Goa government. While the BJP claims that we should not do politics about Mhadei , we are seeing that every action by the Central BJP and BJP Goa is a sword in the hearts of the Goans,” Congress MLA Carlos Ferreira said.

“I wish to ask the Goa Chief Minister whether he has misled the house and Goans on the altar of politics. He needs to clarify and strongly condemn these statements so that people know the truth and who is lying... whether in Goa or Karnataka,” he said.

“The Union Home Minister has revealed what we have been saying all along that there has been a behind closed doors deal between Karnataka and the Centre in which he was present. Till today the Chief Minister has not replied to this; now after the Union Home Minister says that Goa was part of such an agreement, the Chief Minister should call him out, if it is not true,” Goa Forward party leader Vijai Sardesai said.

“I have written to the chairman of the house committee that he should immediately call for a meeting on the issue and ask the Chief Minister to explain the government’s position on the issue,” Sardesai added.

Goa has opposed any diversion of waters of the River Mahadayi which originates in the Western Ghats in Karnataka, takes a detour via Maharashtra and enters Goa as the Mandovi. The Mahadayi river basin drains an area of 2032 sq.km., out of which an area of 375 sq.km. lies in Karnataka, 77 sq.km. in Maharashtra and rest in Goa.

The Mahadayi Interstate Water Disputes Tribunal in a verdict in August 2018 granted Karnataka a total of 13.42 Thousand Million Cubic Feet (TMC) water out of their demand for 36.558 TMC of water, based on which Karnataka has redrawn its project plans that now stand approved.

The award has been challenged in the Supreme Court.

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