For now, the River Mhadei is front and centre in the collective imagination of Goa. The state, led by its MLAs’ fanciful thinking, has conjured up a scenario where the Mhadei runs dry, even though all evidence points in the other direction.
In Goa’s imagination, evidence is not important, scientific studies do not matter and data is irrelevant. We simply want is to keep our water and have it too.
The one thing that came through at the seven-hour House session to discuss the River Mhadei is that no one seems to have read the report of the Mhadei Water Disputes Tribunal, or have simply chosen to ignore it.
It should have been the starting point for any meaningful discussion on the issues at hand. But sadly, that was not the case.
Instead, MLAs cutting across party lines chose to harp on three points — opposition to transfer of water out of the Mhadei basin, withdrawal of sanction granted to Karnataka’s DPRs and immediate formation of the Mhadei Water Management Authority.
The first part of the resolution — out of basin transfer — exposes Goa’s double standards. How can Goa object to out-of-basin water transfer when it openly accepts water transferred from the Tillari to the Mhadei basin via the Tillari Dam project?
If Goa MLAs had read the Tribunal report, they would have found the page which refers to the report of the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal, which upheld the legality of trans-basin diversion of water.
Also, the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal permitted Andhra Pradesh to transfer 80 tmc from the River Godavari to the Krishna basin.
Trans-basin transfer of water is the done thing, so to standing up and saying we object to it is not going to cut much ice, legally speaking.
Would that not affect salinity, navigation in the Cumbarjua Canal and the environment?
Consider this. The Tribunal permitted Karnataka to collectively divert 3.9 tmc, while Maharashtra was allowed to draw 0.56 tmc. Guess how much water Goa has been permitted to draw from the Mhadei?
Roughly 34 tmc. That is 9.4 tmc that it is already extracting (two and half times more that Karnataka) and an additional 24 tmc for the 59 projects that it has in hand.
The question is how can Goa object to diversion of 4.46 tmc by Karnataka and Maharashtra combined and draw 9.4 tmc and propose projects to draw another 24 tmc while simultaneously crying hoarse about protection of the environment? If this isn’t double standards, what is?
Why is every MLA going to extreme lengths to protect the environment when the Tribunal has already accepted Goa’s stand that the environment has to be protected?
If the MLAs had read the report, they would have found the 68 pages dedicated to protection of the environment and the stringent conditions laid down for diversion of water from Kalasa and Bhandura tributaries.
It is clear from the Tribunal’s order that the needs of the environment have to be balanced with judicious utilisation of water.
Goa needs to understand this principle because the Supreme Court too is of the view that rivers are national assets and no single state can claim sole ownership of river water.