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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

MoEF panel to look into Mahadayi river dispute, Goa oppn unimpressed

Opposition parties in Goa said Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar’s letter to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant makes no mention of the all-party delegation’s demand of withdrawal of the ministry’s letter to the Karnataka government allowing it to divert the Mahadayi river.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2019 19:19 IST
Gerard de Souza
Gerard de Souza
Hindustan Times, Panaji
Goa has been locked in a 15-year-old battle with Karnataka over the diversion of the Mahadayi River, referred to as the Mhadei or Mandovi .
Goa has been locked in a 15-year-old battle with Karnataka over the diversion of the Mahadayi River, referred to as the Mhadei or Mandovi .(HT Photo)

Following protests in BJP-ruled Goa, the Centre has assured the state that it will set up a committee to look into the issues raised by the state government concerning the diversion of the Mahadayi river into Karnataka which is also ruled by the BJP.

Union Minister of Environment and Forests, Prakash Javadekar in a letter to Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Monday promised that “a committee is being constituted to look into the issues raised in detail.”

On November 4, Swawant had led an all-party delegation which met Javadekar and demanded that the ministry of environment and forests and climate change (MoEF & CC)) withdraws a letter to the Karnakata government allowing it to construct a river diversion project.

The MoEF, in a letter to the Karnataka government on October 17, noted that the scheme “doesn’t envisage creating new command area or providing water to suffering existing command areas for irrigation. Also the project doesn’t involve hydroelectric power generation [and] is purely a drinking water supply scheme and [hence] does not attract the provisions of the EIA notification 2006 and its subsequent amendments.”

Goa contested the decision stating that the State of Karnataka has misled the MoEF by claiming that the Khalsa-Banduri Dam is a solely a drinking water project.

“Factually, the water from Kalasa-Banduri project is proposed to be diverted into Malaprabha project. The Malaprabha Project is undisputedly an irrigation project. Consequently, Environmental Clearance for the said project is mandatory under the EIA Notification, 2006,” the all-party delegation had said in its representation.

Chief Minister Sawant expressed his happiness at Javadekar’s letter.

“I am happy that MoEF & CC has taken due cognizance of the representation submitted by the all party delegation and as stated in the letter has constituted a committee to examine the issue. I am confident that the committee will soon deliberate and safeguard Goa’s interest with a favourable decision,” Sawant said.

But the opposition parties are less enthused and termed the letter an eyewash.

“Goans have demanded withdrawal of that approval. Where is that withdrawal? This letter is a laughing stock aimed at fooling Goans,” Yatish Naik a Congress leader said.

Vijai Sardesai of the Goa Forward Party called the letter an eyewash and pointed out that it was his effort in filing a case before the National Green Tribunal that brought relief for the state.

“The letter is an eyewash. Our petition has been disposed by the National Green Tribunal with directions that Karnataka must take environmental clearance for irrigation or hydroelectric project as pointed by us,” Sardesai said.

The opposition also alleged that the letter was issued solely to help the BJP’s chances at the upcoming assembly bypolls in Karnataka.

The bypolls to the 15 seats hold the key to the survival of the Yeddiyurappa government in Karnataka where the diversion of the waters of the Mahadayi river is a key electoral plank for the BJP.

The Mahadayi River, referred to as the Mhadei or Mandovi in Goa originates in the Western Ghats in northern Karnataka along the border with Goa and flows briefly into Maharashtra before flowing into Goa.

Goa is locked in a 15-year-old dispute with Karnataka and Maharashtra and opposes Karnataka’s demand to divert the river to the east flowing Malaprabha river.