A meeting of the Cabinet was held on Sunday, after the return of Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik from Delhi where he had participated in the tripartite meeting convened by the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation to discuss and resolve various issues on Mahanadi River in New Delhi.
Hon’ble Union Minister for Water Resources, Ms. Uma Bharti had chaired the Delhi meeting. Hon’ble Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, Dr. Raman Singh also participated in the deliberations. The said meeting was attended by Hon’ble Ministers from Odisha, Shri Debi Prasad Mishra and Shri Pushpendra Singh Deo, A similar delegation from Chhattisgarh attended the meeting. Senior officers of Ministry of Water Resources including Secretary, Special Secretary, Joint Secretary and senior officers of Central Water Commission were also present.
The meeting started with presentations by the officials of the two States followed by addresses of Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha and Hon’ble Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh.
In his address, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha stated that – “My Govt. and the people of Odisha are seriously concerned about the construction activities of Chhattisgarh Govt. in upper catchment of Mahanadi river basin without sharing the critical data with us or without our consent wherever necessary. As I have pointed out, in many cases there has been serious violation of stipulated statutory requirements. I have also apprised the Hon’ble Prime Minister of our concern in this regard seeking his intervention. My state and Govt. has great respect for the federal polity and governance. We also respect the just and equitable riparian rights of co-basin states in inter-state river water sharing issue.
However, any unilateral action of any state especially the upstream state violating the fundamental doctrine of our federal polity in such issue and non-enforcement of the federal regulation by the Union Govt. and its agencies is extremely unfortunate. If the Union Govt. is serious about resolving the Mahanadi water dispute between the two states by negotiation, I urge upon the Union Govt. to impress upon Govt. of Chhattisgarh to stop all construction activities of on-going projects immediately. The MOEF should review clearance given for these projects on the basis of what is actually going on in the ground and not on the information provided by the Govt. of Chhattisgarh.
The CWC should exercise its statutory obligation for protecting the rights of Odisha and enforce stoppage of construction activities in upper catchment of Mahanadi and tributaries. After all construction activities for the on-going projects are stopped, the Centre may appoint an independent Fact Finding Committee consisting of Engineers, retired Judges, Hydrologists and Agricultural Experts with representations from both States to collect all the connected data pertaining to Mahanadi waters, its various forms of utilisation and irrigation practices as well as projects both existing, under construction and proposed in the Mahanadi basin which must also include tributaries of Mahanadi.
The information currently available and to be provided by State of Chhattisgarh may be examined by the Committee to look into the quality of inputs, methodology of analysis and assumptions made while formulating their views on future utilization. The Committee shall only collect the data without making any recommendations and submit its report within three months. After the relevant data are made available, we may hold discussion to arrive at an agreed allocation of waters for the both states.
The Union Government will assist in arriving at such a settlement within six months and in the meanwhile, as I have already mentioned, the State of Chhattisgarh shall not take any steps to make the solution of the problem difficult either by impounding or by utilising water of Mahanadi beyond what it is at present. Mahanadi is the lifeline of Odisha. 65% of our population is dependent on Mahanadi and it touches the lives and livelihood of people in 16 districts. Mahanadi provides a huge Ecological balance to our otherwise disaster prone state.