Forty-five days have passed since Karnataka’s DPR for the Kalasa-Bhandura project was approved by the Central Water Commission on December 29, last year. In the period from that date, Goa has risen up stunned and shocked, yet the response has been nothing but tepid.
A massive meeting on Opinion Poll Day had given the Goa government 15 days to act on the matter. It was clear even then that the government would do no such thing and questions raised in this column were: what next? How will the people’s movement for the Mhadei waters be taken forward?
Those questions still remain unanswered for the simple reason that while there has been a lot said on the Mhadei matter and many meetings held, the State is no closer to making the Centre listen to its point of view.
As per reports in the local media, the chairman of the House Committee constituted to study the issue related to the Mhadei water diversion said that they will appoint nationally-reputed environmentalists as consultants and experts to give inputs on the ill effects of the diversion of water.
While that sounds like a major move from the government and also welcome as what is required is expert views on the subject and not mere fears raised by the common man, that statement also leads to other very relevant questions.
On what basis has Goa been arguing its case on the Mhadei waters all these years in the tribunal and in other courts?
Doesn’t the State have a report by experts that details just this? Shouldn’t the MLAs present at the House Committee meeting have asked these questions and got some answers?
From what can be gathered and understood from the above, it appears that Goa has been defending its stand on the Mhadei water diversion on arguments that have no scientific basis. Is it therefore any surprise that the issue has reached the current stage where Goa is fighting for the waters with its back to the wall?
The Mhadei Bachao Abhiyan has been constantly saying that Goa is a water-deficient State. Shouldn’t this be enough for the government to act on and substantiate with expert opinion and reports? Was this done? If not, why wasn’t it done?
Besides, given the slow pace at which government work, especially the Goa government from past experience, there has been no timeframe set for when these experts will be brought in and how long a period they will be given to complete their report. Will this happen quickly?
Goa does not have much time and requires such a report at the earliest. Such an expert report would be a trump card in the Mhadei battle. The government, if it is serious about such an expert report, will have to hasten its pace and get the experts on board in the fastest possible time.
It is not possible to win the Mhadei battle based merely on rhetoric. Till today that is all Goa has been getting – from the government as well as from the opposition. That stage should have been long past and Goa should have been able to substantiate its arguments with more than mere statements that are aimed at the people for their consumption.
It is clear that the people cannot depend on the political establishment to protect the waters of the Mhadei.
What is very conspicuously missing is the will of the political establishment to make a fight out of this and win it. In the political world of one-upmanship, every MLA and party is playing to the galleries.
We don’t need that. We need results in favour of Goa and we need them fast. There are people who may believe that Goa has already lost the Mhadei battle.
But instead of taking a defeatist attitude, there needs to be a kindling of fire kindled that changes these views. If a river’s waters can be allowed to be diverted, surely it is possible to turn a losing argument into a victory.
So what next for the people’s movement on Mhadei? The deadline given at the Sankhali meeting of January 16, 2023, to the government to act has elapsed.
Has the government acted? It doesn’t appear to have. The movement, therefore, has to take the next step, whatever it may be. The pressure on the government to act has to be exerted by all fora.
After all, we do say that the River Mhadei is Goa’s lifeline. It, therefore, has to be protected by the people, if the political establishment is slow to act. The State is losing time. With each day that passes and nothing is done to turn the tide in Goa’s favour, the battle will only get more difficult. There is no time, whatever is being done has to be done quickly.