ONI Bureau: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik upped the ante on the issue of Mahanadi River water dispute with Chhattisgarh, writing a letter to PM Modi, asking him to issue instructions to constitute a tribunal to protect the interest of 4.5 crore people of Odisha.
As the Centre had recently turned down Odisha request for a tribunal and argued in the Supreme Court against it, just to be pulled up and asked to file a reply by the 3rd week of January, the CM yet again put the ball in Centre’s court.
Naveen wonders how the Union Water Resource Ministry, which told the Rajya Sabha on 31st July 2017 and Lok Sabha on 10th August 2017 that river disputes cannot be resolved by negotiation and it has been decided to constitute a Tribunal for adjudication of the dispute, changed its stand on 4th December and told the apex court that a tribunal cannot be constituted.
“The counsel appearing before the Supreme Court on 9th October, had assured that a notification will be issued by 19th November 2017 constituting a Tribunal. Then, under what circumstances the decision was taken,” asks Naveen.
“This volte face is not only surprising but prima facie smacks of considerations other than what is legal or what is just and fair”, wrote Naveen.
“I may emphasise that the federal scheme of our Constitution does not countenance forcing the unwilling State to negotiate or deliberate particularly in a situation like this, where the opposite State has been using negotiation only as a handle to delay the adjudication to complete its projects and create a fait accompli. Hence my Government does not see any purpose in further negotiating with the recalcitrant State of Chhattisgarh which has unilaterally and surreptitiously gone ahead with the construction of barrages in Mahanadi basin far exceeding its share of water (ultimate plan of Chhattisgarh is, admittedly, 27.48 MAF), which is not more than 8.33 MAF in the minimum flow and 2.50 MAF in the surplus flow, totalling 10.83 MAF. The Hirakud Dam in the downstream Odisha has already suffered and is likely to suffer heavily much to the prejudice of the people of Odisha”, the CM wrote.
The CM finally requested the Prime Minister to issue instruction for the constitution of a Tribunal by issuing the necessary notification under Section 4(1) of the Act of 1956, to protect the interest of the four and half crore people of Odisha.