Form Tribunal To Resolve Mahanadi Dispute: CM Urges PM

Mahanadi
Photograph: Suprakash Mishra
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Bhubaneswar: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday wrote to Prime
Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his intervention to constitute an inter-state tribunal to
settle the Mahanadi water dispute.

In his letter, the Chief Minister said, “The Union ministry of water
resources filed a statement (in the Supreme Court) on December 4 changing its stand
completely, stating that the tribunal cannot be constituted. This volte-face
is not only surprising but prima facie smacks of considerations
other than what is legal or what is just and fair. The pretext used by
the ministry is the Agreement of 1983, under which Odisha and Madhya
Pradesh had agreed to constitute a Joint Control Board (JCB). But, the
Union Ministry has wholly misread the said Agreement with regard to
the functions of the JCB.”

He added, “The principal secretary in the water resources department, government of Odisha, had pointed out clearly on January 17, 2017, that the JCB is not intended to resolve the inter-state disputes on sharing of Mahanadi water, particularly the dispute on the prejudicial impact of diversions planned by Chhattisgarh. The JCB was
intended for monitoring of certain joint projects then contemplated in
1983 by both Odisha and Madhya Pradesh governments. In fact, none of
those joint projects was taken up and therefore, the JCB has not even
been constituted in last 35 years. In any case, JCB is only a
deliberative mechanism and its formation or deliberation before it is
not a condition precedent for formation of a tribunal, which is a
mandatory statutory obligation of the Central Government under Section
4(1) of the Act of 1956.”

“The federal scheme of our Constitution does not countenance forcing
the unwilling state to negotiate or deliberate particularly in a
situation like this, where the opposite state has been using
negotiation only as a handle to delay the adjudication to complete its
projects and create a fait accompli. Hence, my government does not see
any purpose in further negotiating with the recalcitrant state of
Chhattisgarh which has unilaterally and surreptitiously gone ahead with
the construction of dams and barrages on Mahanadi basin far exceeding
its share of water (ultimate plan of Chhattisgarh is, admittedly,
27.48 MAF), which is not more than 8.33 MAF in the minimum flow and
2.50 MAF in the surplus flow, totalling 10.83 MAF. The Hirakud dam in
the downstream Odisha has already suffered and is likely to suffer
heavily much to the prejudice of the people of Odisha,” Naveen noted.

The CM pointed out that formation of a tribunal, going by the Act, is mandatory and ought to have been constituted by November 19,2017, (i.e., within one year of the Odisha government filing its complaint). He requested the Prime Minister to issue necessary instructions to form a tribunal and protect the interests of the people of Odisha.

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