Mahanadi row: Centre convenes Odisha-Chhattisgarh meeting on July 29

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New Delhi: The Centre will convene a joint meeting between Odisha and Chhattisgarh on July 29 to discuss the sharing of Mahanadi water, which has snowballed into a major row between the two neighbouring states after Chhattisgarh embarked on a host of projects in the upper catchments of Mahanadi.

The announcement about the Centre-brokered meeting was made by Union minister of state for Water Resources and River Development Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan in the Lok Sabha today.

The reply of the minister came in response to a calling attention motion moved by BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahatab.

Balian said the Chhattisgarh government had submitted a detailed project report (DPR) for Arpa-Bhaisajhar barrage to the Water Resources ministry in 2013. In 2014, the ministry had directed the Chhattisgarh government to discuss the DPR with the Odisha government. “Te Chhattisgarh government had presented the DPR to the Odisha government in 2015. Till date, there has been no response from the Odisha government,” Baliaan informed.

He further said the CWC had said the project is technically correct. But the Chhattisgarh government has begun the construction work of this project without the recommendation of the technical advisory committee.

Referring to the other projects, the Union minister said the Chhattisgarh government had sent the DPR of Pairi irrigation project to the Odisha government in April, this year. Besides, it had also sent its DPR to the Odisha government on Kelo project in 2006. As there was no reply from the Odisha government, the ministry and the CWC approved the project in 2009. “Instead of objecting to this project between 2006 and 2009, the Odisha government is raising the issue now,” he pointed out.

Balyan said after he was informed about these projects by the Odisha government one and half month ago, the ministry had asked both the state governments to discuss the issues involved. “While the Chhattisgarh government agreed to the talks, the Odisha government sought one month’s time. The first meeting was scheduled on June 27. But as it could not be held, the ministry has scheduled the next meeting on July 29,” he added.

He said the Centre has got one-year time to find an amicable solution to these issues. But a tribunal will be formed if there is no outcome from the meeting between these two states

The Union minister also pointed out that had the joint control board been formed as per the 1983 agreement between the two states, such issues would not have arisen.

Earlier, participating in the debate, Mahatab said leave alone consultation, the Chhattisgarh government has started constructing a number of projects without even informing the Odisha government. Almost all projects are solely meant to generate hydro power to set up industries. If this is the priority of the Chhattisgarh government, let them come out in the open.

He said construction of these projects will have a serious impact in the downstream areas of Jharsuguda and Bargarh districts as well as the Hirakud reservoir.

Expressing grave concern over the matter, BJD MP Tathagat Satpathy wondered; “Is the contention that the non-monsoon flow in the Mahanadi should be stopped? Secondly, is it the intention to kill the Hirakud and thereby kill Odisha just because the people of Odisha have opted to take a different path in their socio-political life?”

In his statement, Bolangir MP Kalikesh Narayan Singhdeo said Mahanadi provides 50 percent of the irrigation in Odisha. “The Hirakud reservoir irrigates four major districts—Sambalpur, Bargarh, Bolangir and Sonepur. How can the Central Water Commission (CWC) allow the Chhattisgarh government to go ahead with these projects? Can the ministry of Water Resources allow the construction of dam on the upper catchments of Mahanadi when the bilateral treaty which indicates that certain procedures have not been completed?” Singhdeo asked.

Countering the allegations of the BJD MPs, BJP MP from Rajnandgaon, Abhisek Singh said he has no information that the Odisha government has taken any steps for establishment of a joint control board since 1983.

“Going by the issues that the Odisha government has raised and the communication it has had with the Chhattisgarh government so far, I don’t think the former has taken any serious steps at the political level,” Singh pointed out.

Supporting his party colleague, Raipur MP Ramesh Bais said the Odisha government should have informed the Chhattisgarh government if the later had done anything wrong.

Defending his government, Bais said for the Kelo project, the Chhattisgarh government has got the permission from the CWC. Talking about the other micro and minor projects, he said his government has constructed these projects with the approval of the CWC.

BJD members today staged a walkout in the Rajya Sabha on this matter.

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