Dispute over Krishna river waters

Centre notifies the jurisdictions of KRMB and GRMB, both boards to manage irrigation and hydel projects in the Krishna and Godavari river basins

Published : July 17, 2021 19:39 IST

The Krishna river, a file photo. Photo: G. RAMAKRISHNA

The Narendra Modi government on July 15 notified the jurisdictions of the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) and the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) and transferred to these boards the operational management and maintenance of 107 major and medium irrigation projects in the Krishna and Godavari river basins.

In a move that is controversial, unprecedented and has already ruffled feathers, the Narendra Modi government on July 15 notified the jurisdictions of the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) and the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) and transferred to these boards the operational management and maintenance of 107 major and medium irrigation projects in the Krishna and Godavari river basins. Constituted under Section 87 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, the two boards will, effective from October 14, be empowered to operate the headworks of barrages, dams, reservoirs, regulating structures, part of canal networks, transmission lines and the power houses at the 107 projects in the two river basins.

The Centre’s decision, which came through a gazette notification by the Ministry of Jal Shakti (MoJS), will have major implications in the co-basin States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, whose governments, once the gazette takes effect, will no longer have control over the major and medium irrigation projects (both completed and ongoing projects) in their respective States. The Centre’s decision has already caused much angst in Telangana, with the government viewing it as a usurpation of the rights of the State by the Centre. Interestingly, the Centre has decided not to bring the functioning of minor irrigation projects in the two States under the purview of the two boards.

The MoJS notification comes in the wake of a festering dispute between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh over the sharing of the Krishna river waters, with both States accusing each other of illegally appropriating more water than what has been allocated and going ahead with irrigation and hydel projects that have not been sanctioned, particularly at the Srisailam, Nagarjunsagar and Pulichintala reservoirs. The gazette notification stipulates that the KRMB and the GRMB will have complete control over the operation and maintenance of the common reservoirs in both Krishna and Godavari basins: 36 projects in the Krishna basin and 71 projects in the Godavari basin. All sanctioned posts in the projects in the two basins will come under the jurisdiction of the two boards. So too will plants, machinery, equipment and stores.

Reacting to the gazette notification, T. Harish Rao, Telangana Finance Minister, termed the move “nothing but an encroachment upon the powers of Telangana”. The Centre cannot take over all the powers of the State. Terming it an injustice to Telangana, Harish Rao said that the Centre rather than unilaterally finalising the jurisdictions of the Krishna and Godavari boards should have consulted the Telangana government and taken its opinion before doing so. He also faulted the Centre for including 71 irrigation projects built on the Godavari river when there were neither any common projects nor disputes.

Citing the battle between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana over hydel generation, the notification further states that “the principles, guidelines, directions and orders issued by the Boards on matters relating to power generation, transmission and distribution should be implemented by both the States”. The gazette notification also states that both States will have to immediately stop work at “unapproved projects” and obtain approvals within six months of the notification being issued.

According to the notification, both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been directed to deposit within 60 days from the date of publication of the notification a one-time seed money of Rs.200 crore each into the bank account of the KRMB to enable it to discharge its functions effectively. And in a bid to make the two boards impartial, the Centre has ruled that no person from Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will be appointed as the Chairman, Member-Secretary, members, and Chief Engineers of the KRMB and the GRMB. The notification also specifies that the Central Industrial Security Force will assist the KRMB in the day-to-day functioning of the specified projects.

The Ministry further said that if there was any dispute over the KRMB’s jurisdiction under sub-section (1) of section 87 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, over any project referred thereto, it shall be referred to the Centre, with the Centre’s decision being final.

While Andhra Pradesh has been demanding a notification of the boards’ purview, Telangana has opposed handing over the operation of projects to the KRMB citing a lack of clarity on the States’ share of water. The KRMB is hamstrung by the fact that it can only regulate the supply of water and power generated from projects or components thereof as per the award made by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT). As per the tribunal’s award, of the 811 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) of Krishna water, Telangana got 299 tmc ft in temporary allocation while 512 tmc ft was allotted to Andhra Pradesh. Telangana has claimed that it should have got 565 tmc ft.

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