State Cabinet approves stand of Odisha govt on Mahanadi issue: Chief Secy

Bhubaneswar: The State Cabinet which met here today to discuss the ongoing Mahanadi water row, has unequivocally supported the stand of the Odisha government, said chief secretary Aditya Prasad Padhi.

“As the Chhattisgarh government declined to stop work, the State Cabinet felt there is no option but to explore other means to protect the interest of the state, the livelihood and well being of people. It also resolved that the state government should take all possible steps to protect the interests of the people of Odisha”, Padhi told media persons after the State Cabinet meeting which was presided over by chief minister Naveen Patnaik at the State Secretariat here.

He further said the state government is exploring all legal and other options.

The chief secretary, however, said he cannot give any definitive statement in this regard. “We will do whatever is necessary in 7-10 days”, he pointed out.

Padhi said the meeting also discussed about the legal measures to put the construction of ongoing projects on upper Mahanadi by the Chhattisgarh government on hold.

“This apart, the meeting also discussed about the outcome of the tripartite meeting held in New Delhi yesterday and the future course of action the Odisha government is going to take on this issue”, he added.

Padhi said the chief minister stressed at the tripartite meeting that the Odisha government and people are concerned over Chhattisgarh’s construction activities in the upper catchment of the river basin without sharing the critical data with us or without our consent wherever necessary.

“The chief minister pointed out that he had also apprised the prime minister of Odisha’s concern in this regard, sought his intervention and hoped that the Centre and the Chhattisgarh government will treat the Mahanadi water issue in right spirit of federalism”, he said.

Along with the chief secretary, the meeting was attended by the Development Commissioner, Water Resources Secretary, Law secretary and Advocate General of Odisha.

Briefing media persons soon after his return from New Delhi this afternoon, chief minister Naveen Patnaik said while Chhattisgarh has refused to stop the construction work on the river, unfortunately the Centre was also reluctant to intervene strongly.

Talking about the impact of barrages constructed in upper Mahanadi, former Engineer-in-Chief and River Board Member, BP Das said the Chhattisgarh government has not mentioned the requirements of the six barrages it has constructed.

“In my assessment, the Chhattisgarh government will take away at least one million acre feet of water through these six barrages. Our major worry is the month of September. Usually water level of the reservoir is kept low till September 1 to allow 4-5 million acre feet of upstream water. The Chhattisgarh government is silent about the volume of water it is going to release during September. They are not bothered about requirement and management of Hirakud reservoir and claim total rights on Mahanadi water”, Das said.

He said the Chhattisgarh government claims that out of 83,000 sq km of Mahanadi water, it has the right to use 73,000 sq km of water which is absolutely wrong.

“Odisha has right since last 60 years to use 16 million acre feet of Mahanadi water. The Chhattisgarh government has already completed 16 major and minor projects on Mahanadi while construction of 15 projects is underway. Going by this, I would say that the Hirakud reservoir will get around 1-2 million acre feet of water in September”, Das noted.

Rejecting the claim of the Chhattisgarh government that the upstream water released by it during monsoon is five times the capacity of the Hirakud reservoir, he said out of 16 million acre feet of water, the Hirakud dam authorities have to release 12 million acre feet of water otherwise they cannot moderate flood in the downstream areas. “For this reason, we keep water level below its optimum capacity till September 1. If we don’t maintain the level during September, there will be devastating flood in Mahanadi delta and other central regions like Angul, Boudh, Redhakhol and Nayagarh”, he pointed out.