Hyderabad: To get a clear perspective on the contentious river water sharing issues between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, it is necessary for one to understand the historical injustice meted out to Telangana for decades that led to the separate Statehood movement.
To start with, Telangana suffered heavily on account of the scrapping of 54.4 tmc Upper Krishna Project , the 100.7 tmc Bhima project and 19.2 tmc Tungabhadra left bank canal. More importantly, the location of Nagarjunasagar Project was shifted 19 kms downstream, from Yelleshwaram to Nandikonda, resulting in the loss of command area in Telangana.
The Bachawat Award clearly observed that: “The State of Andhra Pradesh, no doubt, has been allocated enough water for historical reasons, but still Telangana as a part of the State of Andhra Pradesh stands in need of irrigation. The area which we are considering for irrigation formed part of Hyderabad State and had there been no division of that State, there were better chances for the residents of this area to get irrigation facilities in Mahabubnagar district. We are of the opinion that this area should not be deprived of the benefit of irrigation on account of the reorganisation of States.”
That being said, seven long years have passed since bifurcation but the new born State of Telangana is still struggling to get its rightful share due to the gross inaction on the part of the Union government. On July 14, 2014, immediately after the formation of the State, the Telangana government lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Water Resources under Section 3 of the Inter State River Water Disputes Act seeking equitable allocation of Krishna waters. Subsequently, several letters reminding the Centre about the pending issues were written.
Chadrashekhar Rao himself wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December, 26, 2018 and raised the issue of river water sharing between the sibling States and followed it up on several occasions. However, no action was initiated by the Centre. While every State has a right to know its rightful share in river water, Telangana was deprived of this basic input even after seven years of its formation.
Krishna River the flash point
The clear and present danger is the Andhra Pradesh government’s intentions to expand the capacity of Pothireddypadu Head Regulator and the newly proposed Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (RLIS). The original project was built illegally without any water allocation, no approval by any statutory authority, and is meant to send water outside Krishna Basin.
Telangana objected to the controversial GO Rt No 203 issued by the AP government on May 5, 2020 giving administrative sanction for Rs 7,045.88 crore to take up the project. Telangana contention, rightfully, was that Krishna River is intended to meet the water needs of parched areas such as Mahabubnagar, Nalgonda, Rangareddy and Hyderabad districts. Some of these districts have also been suffering from excess fluoride content in drinking water.
“If Andhra Pradesh is allowed to go ahead with their nefarious and illegitimate expansion plans now, there will be no water available to meet the requirements of existing projects in Telangana including the drinking water needs of the capital city Hyderabad, which is a mega metropolis of India, and which is very much within Krishna Basin,” Chief Minister said in his recent letter to Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.
The role of KRMB
The matter of Pothireddypadu Regulator and the Rayalseema Lift Irrigation Scheme was first brought to the notice of Krishna River management Board (KRMB) in February, 2020. As the KRMB failed to take any action against AP, the government of that State went ahead and called for tenders for a project that aims at out-of-basin transfer of Krishna river water. Despite the central government’s clear directions to establish a Telemetry system within three months after the high level meeting chaired by Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) in 2016, no such system was installed to monitor the illegal drawals.
On the contrary, in a shocker to the Telangana government, the Board gave instructions to the government to stop water release from Srisailam Left Bank Power House. As per the Bachawat Award, Srisailam a Hydro-Electric project has a provision of 33 tmc for evaporation losses. Moreover, the water released from the Srisailam reservoir helps Telangana generate hydro-electric power besides the water flow en route to Nagarjunasagar Project meeting the irrigation requirements of 6 lakh acres of ayacut and drinking water needs of over 1 crore population including Hyderabad city.
The AP Reorganisation Act 2014
As per Section-89 of the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Act, 2014, Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal (KWDT)-II has to make project-wise specific allocation and determine an operational protocol for release of waters in the event of deficit flows. However, the Terms of Reference of KWDT II does not permit inter-se reallocation of water to the States of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
The KWDT-II in its order dated October 19, 2016 has held that the issue of allocation of water to State of Telangana can be taken up only after Government of India makes a reference for the same under Section-3 of Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956. Had the Government of India taken action on the complaint of Telangana to refer this matter under Section-3, the issue would have been resolved by this time. Unfortunately, due to the inaction and gross negligence of Government of India by not referring this matter under Section-3 to the Tribunal, the matter remains unresolved.
Telanagna has been arguing that discussing the issue of Jurisdiction of river management boards during the second Apex Council meeting will be useless till the overall allocation of Krishna waters between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has still to be made and operational protocol is yet to be formulated by the Tribunal.
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