New Delhi: The Union Ministry of Water Resources and River Development which has refused to constitute a tribunal for resolving the Mahanadi row, had in the past recommended exploring ways beyond the Negotiation Committee.
The 12-member Negotiation Committee, which had six members from the Centre, after holding two rounds of meetings, in which Orissa did not participate in both and Chhattisgarh in one, the panel admitted its failure in resolving the Mahanadi controversy.
The final report of the panel said: “The members of the Negotiation Committee present in the meeting were of the view that it is not useful to continue the proceedings of the Committee any further. They suggested that the ministry may consider exploring possibility of finding negotiated settlement of the Mahanadi water dispute at a higher level.”
It is noteworthy that the state government under the provisions of the Inter-State River Water Dispute Act, 1956 had asked the Centre to constitute a tribunal to redress the issue in 2016. However, the Centre instead of setting up a tribunal allegedly unilaterally formed a Negotiation Committee which did not even had the secretary of the ministry as a panel member.
The Central government which has now filed a statement before the Supreme Court saying the Orissa government did not provide facts to the National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee. However, it seems to have contradicted the report of the Negotiation Committee which claimed that even the Chhattisgarh government did not share facts with the institute. The minutes of the second Negotiation Committee also claim that the Chhattisgarh government also did not take part in the second meeting of the committee. But these two matters were ostensibly not mentioned in the statement of the Central government submitted to the Supreme Court.
Nevertheless, in other communications from the Orissa government to the Centre, it had clarified the state wished to share important facts and figures relating to Mahanadi when the demanded tribunal was formed and before the Tribunal. Later, they also clarified that facts would not be shared until the Chhattisgarh government stops construction of project in Mahanadi catchment areas.
The minutes of the tripartite meeting among CMs of Orissa and Chattisgarh and mediated by the then Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti also claim that although Chhattisgarh was in favour of establishing a Joint Control Board as a long term solution, it agreed to the formation of an expert committee as suggested by the Orissa government.
However, documents relating to the meeting of the CMs and Union minister claim that the Central Water Commission had claimed that the 29-year data of runoff observed at the three terminal sites of CWC upstream of Hirakud dam both during monsoon and non-monsoon seasons did not show any downward trend.
At another secretary level meeting July 27 last year it was suggested that in Orissa the irrigated area stands at 39 per cent which needed to be increased by proper utilisation of the Mahanadi river waters, pointing at the lapses of the state.
Manish Kumar, OP
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