Mahanadi Dispute - Odisha demands for Tribunal

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik once again requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set up a Tribunal to resolve the Mahanadi water dispute with Chhattisgarh. He wrote a letter to the PM. In a letter, Patnaik requested Modi to order the formation of the Tribunal by issuing the necessary notification under Section 4 (1) of the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act of 1956, to protect Odisha's interests.

The Chief Minister said while the state government had filed a complaint on November 19, 2016 under the Act seeking appointment of a Tribunal to adjudicate the water sharing disputes, the Central government is yet to act on it.

He said under the Act, it is mandatory to constitute a Tribunal within one year of filing the complaint.

Patnaik said the Union Water Resources Minister has already admitted both in Parliament and the Supreme Court that the dispute cannot be resolved by negotiation and thus setting up a Tribunal is necessary.

"However, to the utter surprise of the people of Odisha for whom Mahanadi is a lifeline, the Union Ministry of Water Resources filed a written statement on December 4 this year changing its stand completely by stating that the Tribunal cannot be constituted.

"This volte-face is not only surprising but prima facie smacks of considerations other than what is legal or what is just and fair," he said.

He said the ministry cited the 1983 Agreement, under which Odisha and (then undivided) Madhya Pradesh had agreed to constitute a Joint Control Board (JCB) but "misread" its provisions as this body is not intended to resolve the dispute.

"I may emphasize that the federal scheme of our Constitution does not countenance forcing the unwilling state to negotiate or deliberate particularly in a situation like this, where the opposite state has been using negotiation only as a handle to delay the adjudication to complete its projects and create a fait accompli," he said.

Patnaik said the state government does not see any purpose in further negotiating with the recalcitrant Chhattisgarh which has unilaterally and surreptitiously gone ahead with the construction of dams and barrages in Mahanadi basin far exceeding its share of water.

The Hirakud dam in the downstream Odisha has already suffered and is likely to suffer heavily much to the prejudice of the people of Odisha, he added.

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