Andhra Pradesh's case

Published : May 06, 2005 00:00 IST

Andhra Pradesh is in a hurry to complete 16 irrigation projects on the Krishna in an attempt to turn a clause in the Tribunal Award in its favour.

W. CHANDRAKANTH in Hyderabad

ANDHRA PRADESH is gearing up to complete 16 irrigation projects, including five ongoing ones, on the Krishna river within the next three years in order to consolidate its arguments in favour of converting the "liberty" clause incorporated in the Bachawat Award into a "right". The State is racing against time as once the objections raised by Karnataka to the projects announced by the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy-led Congress government go to the newly constituted Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT), the award could go either way.

Not much water has flowed down the Krishna basin in Andhra Pradesh, not in the past six years at least, owing to the irrigation projects that have come up or are proposed for construction in the Upper Krishna basin in Karnataka and Maharashtra.

According to Andhra Pradesh, the other riparian States have virtually redrawn the course of the river. Instead of flowing into the Bay of Bengal, the river now seems to be smugly ending its course in the Alamatti reservoir in Karnataka with insignificant inflows into Andhra Pradesh, it says. Another hurdle in the course of the Krishna was put up by Maharashtra, which diverted the river westward from Koyna by adding new hydel projects.

Quick to wake up to the impending crisis, the Congress government has gone ahead with its election promise of completing all pending projects, including the linking of the Krishna and the Godavari rivers. Project `Jalayagnam' will see the completion of 31 irrigation projects at a projected cost of Rs.46,000 crores. In the past 50 years, a total ayacut of 65 lakh acres (26 lakh hectares) was developed in the State. Jalayagnam, which is to be completed in five years, is expected to double the area under irrigation.

The government had to act fast in this matter as suicides by farmers was continuing in the State in spite of benefits such as free power supply. From May 14, 2004, when the Congress government assumed office, until April 10, 1,426 suicide cases were reported. The terms stipulated by the World Bank for power sector reforms, which resulted in a steep hike in power tariffs for the agricultural sector, the continued neglect of artisans and the recurring drought conditions had reduced the rural economy to a shambles.

Large-scale migration from the two most backward districts of the State, Mahabubnagar and Anantapur, also set the alarm bells ringing. The government constituted the Jayati Ghosh Committee to study the plight of the farm sector and suggest remedial measures.

The government also announced the commencement of work on irrigation projects without waiting for clearances from the Central agencies. The works planned are: The SRBC (Srisailam Right Bank Canal), the Jurala and K.C. Canal modernisation (for which clearances have been secured); the Guru Raghavendra and Penna Ahobilam Balancing Reservoir Stages I and II (which need no clearances); the Pulichintala and Beema projects (which need only environmental clearance); and the Telugu Ganga, the Srisailam Left Bank Canal and the Kalwakurthy, Nettempad, Koilsagar, Galeru-Nagari, Handri-Neeva and Veligonda projects (these have no clearances and are based on the utilisation of surplus waters).

The government has set up a special cell in the Irrigation Department to secure the clearance to facilitate the early completion of the projects. The government has also constituted legal and technical cells to prepare the arguments to be presented before the KWDT, headed by Justice Brijesh Kumar. The Tribunal, which was constituted after the expiry of the Bachawat Award in May 2000, is yet to begin work. The first KWDT was constituted in 1969. The Tribunal determined the water available in the Krishna as 2,060 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) at 70 per cent dependability (the yield that is assured statistically in at least 75 out of 100 years), and protected 1,693 tmc ft of existing uses by the States as of September 1960. The balance was to be allocated based on the needs and the socioeconomic conditions.

The KWDT Award formulated two schemes. As per Scheme A, Andhra Pradesh was allocated 800 tmc ft, Karnataka 700 tmc ft and Maharashtra 560 tmc ft. Being a lower riparian State, Andhra Pradesh was given the liberty to use the remaining water without acquiring any right in excess of 800 tmc ft. The deficit or surplus to be shared every year by Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh was fixed at 35, 50 and 15 per cent respectively, if the flows were up to 2,130 tmc ft and beyond this, it was 25, 50 and 25 per cent respectively.

As a post-award development, a scheme to supply water to Chennai city was evolved and an agreement was signed among the three basin States on April 14, 1976, to spare 5 tmc ft each out of the share of each to enable Tamil Nadu draw 15 tmc ft of water for this purpose through the Telugu Ganga canal.

Since 1997, Karnataka has been pleading for the notification of Scheme B, praying for restraining Andhra Pradesh from executing projects based on surplus waters. The Supreme Court dismissed its suit stating that Scheme B was not a decision taken by the KWDT and therefore could not be enforced. Later Andhra Pradesh prayed for restraining Karnataka from increasing the height of the Alamatti dam. The Supreme Court had permitted a height of 519.6 metres and decided to pass down the question of further increases to future tribunals.

Joined by Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh has raised objections to the increased height of the dam beyond a crest level of 509 m saying that it is illegal in the absence of non-compliance with mandatory requirements of dam break analysis and a disaster management plan. The height should have been restricted to a maximum of 515 m at which point the storage is sufficient to use Karnataka's allocated quantity of 160 tmc ft under the Upper Krishna Project. Although Karnataka has been allowed to raise the dam's height to 519.6 m, the storage capacity should be restricted to 509 m, the Andhra Pradesh government feels.

Andhra Pradesh's argument is largely going to be based on the desertification process that has set in in Anantapur and Mahabubnagar districts along with other areas in the Rayalaseema region. While farmers' suicides is an important issue, Andhra Pradesh will also point to the failure of Karnataka to utilise the surplus waters all these years. With no let-up in the drought situation, the Krishna basin has been reduced to the level of depending on the dead-storage of the Nagarjunasagar dam.

Large-scale investments have already been made in Andhra Pradesh on several projects and the denial of permission would make these investments infructuous. Ponnala Laxmaiah, Minister for Major Irrigation, argues that "a holistic view is needed to develop the backward areas. We are only seeking conversion of the `liberty' clause incorporated in the KWDT headed by Bachawat under Scheme A into a `right' clause. This will prevent a large-scale human tragedy."

The government has kept its options open. There has been no substantial change in the water available in the Krishna so far. The allocations of Karnataka and Maharashtra should be restricted to their utilisations as on May 31, 2000, a senior irrigation official argues.

In Maharashtra, the Koyna hydroelectric power project and the Tata Hydel works have been allocated 67.5 tmc ft and 42.5 tmc ft respectively. But the Maharashtra government has allowed the westward diversion of the river waters in the name of increasing its power generation. The storage capacity of the Koyna dam has been increased from 98.7 tmc ft to 105 tmc ft through Koyna Stage IV and V on the premise of Peaking Power Stations and Pumped Storage Schemes.

The timely release of allocated waters is another factor in the dispute. Andhra Pradesh has been pleading for regular and consistent releases. It fears that its right over the remaining water and flood flows has been dented by the projects under construction in Karnataka and Maharashtra. There is also no independent and effective authority to monitor the storage and utilisation of the waters by the upper riparian States to ensure the releases.

Andhra Pradesh is also concerned about the exclusive control of Karnataka on the Tungabhadra Board. The government might insist on an interim stay on the Upper Tunga and Singatlur projects.

The State's present requirement of the Krishna waters is not for irrigation purpose alone. The existing allocation for Andhra Pradesh is 811 tmc ft. It additionally needs 705.85 tmc ft under the existing projects and 332.4 tmc ft under new projects. It need 4.66 tmc ft for power generation; 51.67 tmc ft as drinking water; 63.96 tmc ft as industrial water and 58.7 tmc ft for other needs.

Chief Minister Rajasekhara Reddy said: "Without the support of the neighbours, the Krishna basin is as good as dead. And so will be the future of the State. We hope others understand the human tragedy involved in this dispute and arrive at a sensible solution. Any award is not just about sharing river waters as much as it is about sharing others' concerns. The lives dependent on the Krishna are too many here. Let us save them."

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