Congress blames Patnaik for Mahanadi water dispute

Bhubaneswar:  Congress on Friday said it would support the Odisha government to protect the State’s interest in the Mahanadi water dispute with Chhattisgarh but blamed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for the situation.

“We are ready to accompany the Chief Minister and meet the Prime Minister for resolving the Mahanadi issue,” Leader of Opposition Narasingha Mishra said in the Assembly during a special discussion on the dispute.

Slamming Chhattisgarh for unilaterally building projects on the upstream of the river, Mishra said, “Odisha should approach the Centre for setting up a tribunal to solve the matter.

“We also ask the state government to publish a white paper on the issue enabling people to know how they will be hit by projects in upstream of the river,” he said.

Claiming that the Mahanadi issue has exposed the state government and the Chief Minister, the Congress leader alleged that Patnaik wanted the issue to linger for his political gains.

“Therefore, the ruling party avoids taking opposition parties along with it to oppose the Chhattisgarh government’s activities,” he alleged.

Asserting that a tribunal is the only alternative left with the state, Mishra said a meeting with the Prime Minister could also help resolve issue. Two meets with the Chhattisgarh government have failed to yield any result.

The Congress leader said the Chief Minister must win confidence of all political parties to jointly fight for the State’s interest.

Rejecting the government’s argument that it was not aware of Chhattisgarh’s activities, he said, Patnaik in 2001 had assured this House that Chhattisgarh would not be allowed to proceed with construction activities on upstream of Mahanadi.

“Then Patnaik had said water inflow to downstream of the Mahanadi would decline if Chhattishgarh constructed dams upstream,” Mishra said.

In 2003, the state government had claimed that water flow will not be affected even if Chhattishgarh built dams in the upper portion of the river. It even said that the opposition was making unnecessary hue and cry over the matter, he claimed.

“Again in 2010, on behalf of the Chief Minister, the then parliamentary affairs minister Raghunath Mohanty, had said that steps were being taken to protect interest of the state.

“Now the state government says that Chhattishgarh built the projects without informing Odisha,” the Congress leader said.

“There are lots of contradictions in the state government’s assessment. This indicated that the government is still clueless on the impact of the projects on Odisha,” Mishra said.

The Congress leader slammed the Chief Minister who is also water resources minister for his absence in the House during the debate on the sensitive matter.

On the other hand BJP alleged that the Odisha government’s silence points to the fact that there has been some secret pact between the Odisha and Chhattisgarh government.

“The projects are being undertaken to benefit the industries. The same industrialists who are operating in Chhattisgarh are also operating in Odisha. It seems that there has been some secret agreement between the two governments,” said BJD MLA Pradeep Purohit.

Meanwhile the State government also presented its case and showed how they have been kept in the dark about the project being undertaken on the upper reaches of the Mahanadi river. According to the government chief whip Ananat Das, the Chhattisgarh government undertook 12 projects on Mahanadi between 2003 and 2010 without the permission of the Central Water Commission (CWC). Moreover, the Odisha government has also not been informed about the same, he argued.

Anant Das while refuting BJP’s allegations said, “Naveen Patnaik’s government will never enter into any agreement with anyone by sacrificing the interest of the people of Odisha.”

The BJD members also alleged that the water flow has reduced in Mahanadi after completion of 7 projects in 2010 and it poses a significant threat to the existence of the river.

“If the reduction in water flows in Mahanadi river continues, then as per the assessment of the environmentalists the river will dry up by the year 2026,” said minister Debi Prasad Mishra.