River waters dispute

Andhra Pradesh, Telangana unwilling to give up control of river waters to Krishna and Godavari boards as deadline looms

Published : October 13, 2021 15:34 IST

J. Syamala Rao, Secretary (Water Resources) of Andhra Pradesh, speaking to the media after attending the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) meeting held in Hyderabad on October 12. Photo: NAGARA GOPAL

With less than 24 hours to go for the gazette notification of the Union Ministry of Water Resources on the jurisdiction of the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) and the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) to take effect, unresolved issues and uncertainty permeate the entire exercise.

With less than 24 hours to go for the gazette notification of the Union Ministry of Water Resources on the jurisdiction of the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) and the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) to take effect, unresolved issues and uncertainty permeate the entire exercise. By the notification, the two boards will take over all projects on the Krishna and Godavari.

Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao has already written to the Centre seeking a postponement of the implementation of the notification until the tribunal that is to be announced reallocates water shares. On its part, Andhra Pradesh is keen on the implementation of the notification, as seen by its reluctance to hand over operations of the ‘minuscule’ Peddavagu project across a tributary of the Godavari to the GRMB just to show implementation of the gazette notification. The Centre for its part is still keen that the two boards start taking control of projects from October 14, albeit in a phased manner.

Claims and counterclaims, a lack of mutual consent, and wildly varying perceptions between the two States over the sharing of waters of the Godavari and the Krishna continued to dominate the discussions at the meetings of the GRMB and the KRMB, called on October 11 and 12 respectively, to discuss the recommendations of the boards’ subcommittees. Rajat Kumar, Telangana’s Special Chief Secretary, Irrigation, told Frontline: “Neither (of) the two State governments, nor the two boards are ready to implement the gazette notification.” Irrigation officials from both States have made it clear that they will take any action only after consulting their respective governments.

Andhra Pradesh wants all projects, especially Telangana’s projects which have a power component, to be taken over by the KRMB and the GRMB. Andhra Pradesh’s contention, as spelt out by its Irrigation Secretary J. Syamala Rao, is that the Centre constituted the two boards to ensure a judicious utilisation of the Krishna and Godavari water resources in the two States, and to ensure a fair deal in the sharing of the waters. Talking to Frontline, Syamala Rao said: “The most contentious issue is the upper riparian State’s (Telangana’s) power projects. The boards need to take over these projects first. What is the point in the board taking over a project without taking over Telangana’s power component? There’s no point in the board taking over non-issues.” However, Andhra Pradesh’s stand is countered by officials from Telangana who averred that if that was the norm, then Maharashtra’s projects, since it is also an upper riparian State, should also come under the management of the KRMB.

Despite the acrimony, at the October 12 meeting of the KRMB, both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh agreed, in principle, to allow some components, other than the power component, in 17 common projects, including the Nagarjuna Sagar and Srisailam projects, to come under the “administrative, regulatory, operative and maintenance” of the KRMB.

A statement from M.P. Singh, KRMB Chairman, said: “The implementation of gazette notification of July 15 on jurisdiction of KRMB was discussed in the 15th special meeting of the board on Tuesday [October 12]. All direct outlets (components) from the main reservoirs of Srisailam and Nagarjuna Sagar projects, which are listed under scheduled II of the notification, may be prioritised by respective State governments for hand over to KRMB by October 14.”

But officials from both States were quick to point out that it was only a “transitional arrangement at the moment”, and they would first have to send details and consult their respective governments before a government order is issued and their stand gets notified. Said Rajat Kumar: “Yes Nagarjuna Sagar and Srisailam are common projects; but let the protocols of how they will be administered first be spelt out. Only then can we take a call and issue a government order.” Added Rajat Kumar: “Now that the Centre is looking at the possibility of setting up another tribunal to look afresh at allocation of waters, let the allocation issue be settled expeditiously.”

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