Politics heats up ahead of Mahanadi Tribunal’s first hearing

Bhubaneswar: Amidst the on-going tug of war between Odisha and Chhattisgarh over release of excess floodwater by the latter without prior information, the Mahanadi River Water Disputes Tribunal is slated to hold its first hearing on September 29 in New Delhi.

On this backdrop, all eyes will be on Odisha government’s stand on the Mahanadi issue which has remained a bone of contention between the State and Chhattisgarh since long.

However, presenting its stand before the tribunal is likely to be problematic for Odisha as it is yet to receive the terms of reference.

Despite this, the Odisha Water Resource Department is more likely to come up with a comparative analysis of the sharp drop in the water level of Hirakud dam.

“Tribunal has already started its work and Odisha government has nominated the Chief Secretary and the Water Resources department secretary as representatives,” said Pradeep Jena, Secretary, Water Resources Department.

The department will also argue over the problems being faced by Odisha due to the flood management plan adopted by neighbouring Chhattisgarh government.

Odisha would also present a detailed report on the impact on ecology, biodiversity and lives of people in the State due to a sharp drop in the water level of Mahanadi.

However, it is still not clear whether Odisha Water Resources Secretary will attend the hearing or the State will put forth its stand before the Tribunal through its lawyer.

Meanwhile, politics has heated up in Odisha over the release of excess floodwater by Chhattisgarh without prior information. Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today stated that, “Few of my responsible friends are trying to create an environment of fear and panic. The States should keep the dialogue open as several issues can be resolved through discussions.”

Ruling-BJD MLA Puspendra Singhdeo said, instead raking up the issue here, BJP leaders should try to advice Chhattisgarh to streamline its flood management plan. Such issues might get resolved if they also present the demands of Odisha before the Centre, he added.

Congress on the other hand accused both BJD and BJP of indulging in cheap politics to keep their vote bank intact.

“There is a nexus between BJD and BJP. But efforts should be made to ensure that the interests of the people of Odisha are protected,” said senior Congress leader Jayadev Jena.