You have to give the Narendra Modi government some credit for creating the appropriate smokescreen for announcing the decision of the Central Water Commission to approve the detailed project report for the diversion of water from the Kalasa and Bhandura, both tributaries of the Mhadei.
The central government timed the announcement with the inauguration of the new Zuari Bridge, a bridge that everyone was dying for, considering the traffic jams and bad roads endured for nearly five years at the Cortalim junction. So badly did we want it, that the Mhadei announcement seemed like page 2 news. Like Rohinton Mistry’s book, this was a fine balance.
The reaction of the political parties in Goa, the ruling BJP included, went along expected lines with each one battling to be heard and seen as more loyal than the other.
Goa Forward Party MLA Vijai Sardesai demanded that the CM resign. Sawant promised to meet the Prime Minister and urge him to withdraw the CWC decision. (And what is the PM going to say? “Sorry, my right hand does not know what my left hand is doing. We will reverse the decision”).
Water Resources Minister Subhash Shirodkar called it a unilateral decision which was bad in law. When it comes to the Congress, one has to ask, which Congress? The portion in the BJP or the portion that was left behind. For the record, opposition leader Yuri Alemao also called for the resignation of the chief minister.
The problem with this kind of reaction is that the real story remains in the background. It becomes an unknown. I sometimes wonder how many political parties actually took the trouble to study the water tribunal’s order on Mhadei.
It is a 12-volume report, so my guess is none. It is easier to watch an illegal bullfight than to read 2,700 pages and more convenient to make statements based on headlines and intros. Sadly, it is the people of Goa who never get to know the situation on the ground.
So what is the situation on the ground? The Mhadei water tribunal, like all tribunals before it, allocated shares to Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra. It permitted Karnataka to divert 2.18 tmc from the Bhandura dam and 1.72 tmc from the Bhandura dam plus an additional 1.72 tmc for in-basin use.
Maharashtra was allotted 2.66 tmc and Goa was granted 24 tmc which is over and above the existing utilisation of 9.3 tmc. In addition, all three states were allowed to prepare and submit DPRs. And that is how Karnataka’s DPRs were approved by the CWC.
Goa did not want to share any water with either Karnataka or Maharashtra, so it approached the Supreme Court. This is standard procedure. Every state approaches the apex court after an award of the water tribunal. Incidentally, the Krishna rate dispute is still pending before the apex court.
The only indication one has of how the Supreme Court is likely to rule in this matter is past orders.
In the case of the Cauvery water dispute, it is important to note that the court ruled that rivers are national assets and no one state could claim full rights over its waters (not good for Goa).
More importantly, the greens did not get much either. Of the total of 740 tmc, only 10 was allocated for environmental purposes and 4 tmc for natural flow into the sea.
The need of the hour is for Goan politicians to be less jingoistic and more realistic. If we are willing to sell our land to anyone with big bucks and dispose of all our mineral wealth for private profit, surely we can find a way to share water as well.