New Delhi: While maintaining that a discussion will be a better way to resolve the Mahanadi dispute and ensure enough water for Odisha, Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation Nitin Gadkari said that the centre acknowledges the right of Odisha to demand a tribunal and it will ensure that it is done in the next 3 months.
“A composite tribunal which will merge all the tribunals of various states is on the anvil and once that becomes a law, Odisha will get a tribunal on the Mahanadi water dispute with Chhattisgarh,” Gadkari said in Lok Sabha today while replying to BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahatab’s query whether the Centre is going to implement or enforce a tribunal as earlier as possible.
Bhartruhari however questioned the Centre’s intention citing that why it is taking an excuse of a new law being enacted while the existing law gives Odisha the right to demand and get a tribunal. Commenting on the suggestion of the Union minister of holding discussions with centre for a solution instead of a tribunal which may take years to resolve the issue, Bhartruhari said that the centre has earlier expressed its inability to restrain Chhattisgarh from constructing the barrages and that is the reason why Odisha is not coming forward to sit with the centre for discussions.
Earlier replying to another question from BJD MP from Sambalpur, Nagendra Kumar Pradhan, Gadkari said that the barrages which were constructed by Chhattisgarh were meant for irrigating land up to 2000 hectares for which Centre’s permission is not required.
While agreeing to Nagendra’s claims that water flow of Mahanadi has declined during the non-monsoon period, Gadkari said that it is also true that every year losses to the tune of Rs 800 crore is suffered due to flood in Mahanadi. If we divert that excess water during the rainy season and store it then it will resolve the problem and in this regard Centre is ready to bear all the capital costs for the required infrastructure, he added.
Explaining why the tribunal is not formed till now, Gadkari said, that the centre meanwhile has decided to constitute a single tribunal instead of different tribunals for different disputes. The process of a composite tribunal has already begun and the proposal is pending before the Union Law ministry. If a tribunal for Mahanadi is constituted now, then it will lose its significance once the composite tribunal comes into effect, said Gadkari adding that the centre is waiting for the new legislation to come into effect.
In response to which, BJD Bolangir MP Kalikesh Sigh Deo asked Gadkari, "With what kind of confidence we would have gone to the Centre when it violates own law. As per the Inter-State River Disputes Act, 1956, the Centre is statutorily bound to form a tribunal within one year of a complaint."
Citing that the stiputaled 1-year window has already elapsed and the centre has failed to constitute a tribunal, Kalikesh said that the Centre is making excuses of new legislations while a law already exists.