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Water-sharing woes keep GoM on Telangana busy

November 14, 2013 14:06 IST

The Group of Ministers constituted for the creation of a separate state of Telangana recently discussed the sharing of river water and irrigation resources in Andhra Pradesh after the state’s bifurcation, but failed to arrive at a unanimous resolution.

This crucial issue will again be taken up for discussion on November 18.

The GoM deliberated on the issue after a note was submitted by Union Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh.

Informed sources claimed that the note circulated to the GoM was not the official stance of the Union government.

Ramesh claimed in the note that he had studied provisions related to water resources in earlier legislations on the reorganisation of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

The five-page note identified three major challenges that need to be addressed about sharing the waters of Krishna and Godavari rivers between Telangana and the residuary State of Andhra Pradesh.

The first is the allocation and protocol of sharing of surplus water of Krishna, including inter-basin transfer through Polavaram and the Dummugudem-Nagarjunasagar tail pond project.

The second is an institutional mechanism to ensure availability of water as per the award given by concerned tribunals.

The third challenge is about the completion of projects, where land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement and execution of works may fall under the purview of both the states.

The release and distribution of water for various projects, in the event of deficit flows in the Krishna, remains a major pending issue. Currently, there are no protocols or principles in place for the release of water to the various projects as all are them are located within the same state and the decision to release water is taken by the chief minister.

As the GoM could not arrive at a logical conclusion or finalise a procedure to avoid disputes over sharing of water, it will hold another round of discussion on the issue.

The GoM feels that the Union government should ask the ministry of water resources to commission a technical study, freeze all allocations to each project based on surplus water and evolve an operational schedule or protocol for release of water in the event of deficit flows. It specifically mentioned that the exercise should be completed and notified before the reorganisation of the state.

A number of projects, based on surplus water from the Krishna and benefiting both Telangana and Seemandhra, are in the pipeline.

Experts are apprehensive that it will not be possible for newly-formed Telangana and the residuary state of AP to meaningfully adjudicate these issues on a season to season basis.

The note to the GoM also speaks of the constitution of a two-tier institutional mechanism to manage the sharing of Krishna and Godavari river water and irrigation sources, strictly in accordance with the awards by the tribunals under the Inter State River Disputes Act, 1956.

The mechanism includes setting up an apex council on Krishna and Godavari river water.

The council would consist of the Union minister of water resources, chief ministers of the relevant states, state irrigation ministers, chief secretaries and irrigation secretaries of the two states. The council will oversee the management of the reservoirs by its technical body -- the Krishna and Godavari River Board.

The inter-state KGRB would compromise a chairman, chief engineers and officials from both states. It would be primarily responsible for managing and maintaining the reservoirs, including hydel projects, on the two rivers.

The note to the GoM identified 11 irrigation projects, whose administration, maintenance and operation of the head works would be under the supervision of the proposed board.

The GoM is yet to take a final call on a suggestion to establish a board, which would be assisted by Central Industrial Security Force, to manage the reservoirs.

Another recommendation is reconstitution of the Tungabhadra Board with representation from the two states. The board would oversee release of water to high-level, low-level canal and the Rajolibanda Diversion Scheme.

Image: An official watches the flow of water in the Krishna river after they opened the gates of Nagarjuna Sagar dam in Nalgonda district in Andhra Pradesh ' Photograph: Krishnendu Halder/Reuters

By A Correspondent in New Delhi