Needed talks only, not confrontations

By A K Sahu

Bhubaneswar, April 11: Despite the Union government deciding to form a tribunal to solve the Mahanadi water row, the politics over the issue shows no signs of abetting. Opposition parties in Odisha, mainly the BJD and Congress, want to keep it alive as it has the potentiality to emotionally influence the voters.

The BJP which on the other hands finds itself on the receiving end desperately wants to shrug off the issue. The saffron party maintains the present state of affairs with regard to Mahanadi is a consequence of the BJD’s lackadaisical attitude in the past to fathom the designs of Chhattisgarh government to guzzle most part the Mahanadi water.

Now, the BJD is taking exception to the Centre allegedly delaying in announcing terms of reference of the tribunal. The regional party says the delay is “deliberate” and aims at helping the poll-bound Chhhattisgarh which is ruled by the BJP.

What surprises the analysts is that the BJD leaders in Odisha, instead of showing interest to talk with the Chhattisgarh government, has kept the issue burning as it would help reap rich dividends in the 2019 polls.

It is an undeniable fact that the water flow in Mahanadi river has been seriously affected due to barrages constructed by Chhattisgarh government since 2000. It is also equally a great blunder that Chhattisgarh became too selfish to source maximum possible water for its own use without caring for Odisha, – a basin state whose more than two-third population rely on the river for their survival.

At the same time, it is an acknowledged fact that the Odisha government has committed an equally historic blunder. It was sleeping while the neighbouring state was busy in constructions barrages over Mahanadi.

While the lapse and laxities on both the sides are well-known and well-exposed, both the states want to wash off their hands. They are trying to pose themselves as champions of the cause.

On March 23, the Odisha government announced the launch of Green Mahanadi Mission (GMM) for protection of the Mahanadi river. Finance minister Sashibhusan Behera announced the launch of GMM during his Budget speech in the State Assembly.

Stating that Mahanadi is the lifeline of Odisha, the FM said, in order to enhance water availability and improve livelihood of people in the state, the river needs be protected.

The FM has allocated Rs 30 crore has been allocated in the Budget for the Green Mahanadi Mission.

The FM, however, forgot to elaborate what measures the government planned to undertake on the GMM.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, in his various speeches at different forums, has been pleading for ensuring the sanctity of Mahanadi, – by keeping it from all sorts of pollution.

As politics goes on, the Central Water Commission (CWC) has convened a meeting of all the basin states at New Delhi on April 12 to discuss the inter-state aspect of the projects proposed by Odisha and Chhattisgarh on the river basin.

Officials from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand will also attend the meeting. The meeting, to be presided over by CWC chairman, will discuss projects which have been allowed or are under consideration on Mahanadi river basin.

Hope, the CWC convened meeting will assuage the feelings of both Odisha and Chhattisgarh and bring both the states to a position of negotiation. It is also expected both the states will forgo their egos and agree on formula for solution of the problem.

While giving its nod on March 20, 2018 for constitution of Mahanadi tribunal under the Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act, 1956, the Union Cabinet  advised both the states to keep the channels of mutual talks for amicable solutions of the issue.

Going by the history of the CWC’s efficiency and efficacy in solving river water sharing disputes, as experts suggest, – it will be wise for mutual negotiations between the stakeholders than engaging a quasi-judicial body to address the issue.

It is said confrontation leads nowhere  but conciliation.


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