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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Centre’s go ahead to Karnataka’s water diversion project sparks outrage in Goa

Goa argues that Karnataka’s claim that it needs water for drinking was just a ruse to divert water from an already deficient river basin which would lead to the ingress of seawater upstream and injure the state’s agricultural activities.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2019 00:18 IST
Gerard de Souza
Gerard de Souza
Hindustan Times, Panaji
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant  said  Karnataka can’t be given  environmental clearance  for the water diversion project without hearing the Goa government first.
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said Karnataka can’t be given environmental clearance for the water diversion project without hearing the Goa government first. (PTI)
         

Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar’s tweet on Wednesday that the ministry has granted environmental clearances for the Karnataka government’s contentious project to divert water from the west flowing River Mahadayi (Mhadei) to the east-flowing River Malaprabha has sparked uproar in Goa which is locked in a tug of war over water sharing.

Javadekar announced that on account of the follow up of his cabinet colleague Pralhad Joshi, (who hails from Karnataka) the Kalasa Banduri project has been granted environmental approval. He later deleted the tweet but it was enough to rile Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant.

Sawant said that no such environmental clearance can be granted without hearing the Goa government first.

“The Mhadei is more than mother to us. We shall protect it at any cost. Officially the government of Goa is not aware of any EC having been granted to Karnataka affecting Mhadei river. According to us such EC can’t be granted without hearing the Goa government and without considering the case of State of Goa. In case such EC is issued without hearing State of Goa, we shall challenge the same before appropriate forum including the NGT,” Sawant tweeted.

The river diversion project, which was stalled due to opposition by the Government of Goa, led to the creation of the Mahadayi Interstate Water Disputes Tribunal.

Among the issues that Goa had raised before the tribunal was the fact that Karnataka had begun work on the project to divert water without any environmental clearance that were mandatory under the law.

The Kalasa and Bhandura Nala diversion scheme allegedly for drinking water supply involves diversion of west flowing streams/nalas in the Mahadayi basin to water deficit Malaprabha basin by construction of three diversion dams across Haltara Nala, Kalasa Nala and Bhandura Nala.

All three rivers which originate in the Western Ghats in northern Karnataka and flow in to Goa as the River Mandovi that irrigates more than half the state.

The Karnataka government has proposed to divert 7.56 TMC of water during monsoon season through interconnecting gravity canals for crossing the ridges. The project is exclusively proposed for providing drinking water facilities to Hubli-Dharwad towns, Kundgol Town and villages along the way as part of commitment to National Water Policy, 2012. The total cost of the project is Rs 840.52 crore.

The Goa government had earlier said that the Karnataka’s claim that it needs water for drinking was just a ruse to divert water from an already deficient river basin which would lead to the ingress of seawater upstream and injure the state’s agricultural activities.

In its verdict last year, the tribunal awarded Karnataka 3.45 TMC from their total claims of 7.56 TMC. According to the breakup, Karnataka has been allowed to divert 1.18 TMC from the Kalasa Nala and 2.27 TMC from the Banduri Nala from their claims of 3.56 and 4 TMC respectively.

Opposition parties were quick to attack the government for having failed to protect the state’s interest.

“The Congress Party strongly condemns the central government’s decision to accord environmental clearance to the ‘illegal’ Kalasa-Banduri project for diverting our Mhadei water. The BJP governments at the Centre, Karnataka and Goa have conspired to sacrifice the lifeline of Goa, Mhadei, which is also known as Mandovi, in spite of being fully aware that it would create a total disaster in the tourism state,” the Congress said.

“Shocked and outraged that an Environmental Clearance has been given to Kalasa Banduri Project by the Union government. This is no drinking water project. This is a kill Mahadayi River Project,” president of the Goa Forward Party and former deputy chief minister Vijai Sardesai tweeted.