Dispute over Mahanadi waters

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The Odisha government plans to notify the Supreme Court about the central government’s failure to appoint a tribunal to resolve the dispute over Mahanadi waters with Chhattisgarh.

Why?

Over the last two years, Odisha has been alleging that the Chhattisgarh government was violating a 1983 treaty on Mahanadi waters by constructing unauthorised dams and barrages.

Background

  • The Odisha government requested a tribunal on November 19 last year. The one-year deadline to constitute the tribunal has expired,” Pradeep Kumar Jena, Principal Secretary in the Department of Water Resources
  • On October 9, the last hearing, counsel for Government of India had committed that a decision on the tribunal would be taken before November 19 (this year). In the next hearing, most likely on December 1, our lawyers will raise the matter.”
  • Odisha’s request for a tribunal was made as per section 4(1) of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956). The Act states when the “central government is of the opinion that the water dispute cannot be settled by negotiations”, it shall “within a period not exceeding one year from the date of receipt of such request” constitute a water dispute tribunal.
  • In January, the Centre appointed a negotiations committee “to assess availability and utilisation of waters of Mahanadi and its tributaries”, according to a press release by the Ministry of Water Resources.

Issue

This is a critical issue that links over 65 per cent of Odisha’s population. There is a nexus between (Government of) Chhattisgarh and Government of India, both run by BJP, to see that Odisha is put into difficulty,” said Rabindra Jena, BJD Lok Sabha MP from Balasore.

Mahanadi

The Mahanadi is a major river in East Central India. It drains an area of around 141,600 square kilometres (54,700 sq mi) and has a total course of 858 kilometres (533 mi). The river flows through the states of Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

Sources of Rivers

  • Like many other seasonal Indian rivers, the Mahanadi too is a combination of many mountain streams and thus its precise source is impossible to pinpoint. However its farthest headwaters lie 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from Pharsiya village 442 metres (1,450 ft) above sea level south of sihawa town in Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh
  • The hills here are an extension of the Eastern Ghats and are a source of many other streams which then go on to join the Mahanadi.
  • For the first 80 kilometres (50 mi) of its course, the Mahanadi flows in a northerly direction and drains the Raipur district and touches eastern portions of Raipur city. It is a rather narrow river at this stage and the total width of its valley does not exceed 500–600 metres.

Mahanadi water dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh

The Mahanadi, which has been a serious bone of contention between the two states, snowballed into a major political issue with the BJD deputing a 12-member team to Chhattisgarh last week to inspect the construction of certain projects upstream.

Chhattisgarh government has been supplying water from the controversial Kelo project to industries, instead of using it for drinking and irrigation purposes. Further, BJP spokesperson and team member PK Deb stated that the Chhattisgarh government constructed the Kelo project without consulting the Odisha government.

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