Once again, confusion has surfaced on the jurisdiction of projects on river Krishna in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. A couple of days ago, the Chairman of Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) wrote a letter to the Union Ministry of Water Resources, with a proposal to notify the jurisdiction of the KRMB over projects on the river.
The Telangana government strongly objected to the way the letter was written unilaterally without taking the concurrence of member States. The Chairman cannot exercise the powers of the Board without discussing in the Board. Telangana has rejected the proposal to bring the projects, as of now, under the direct control of the KRMB, citing certain valid reasons.
The KRMB was constituted in 2014 as per Section 85 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. As per Section 87, the projects on river Krishna will come under the jurisdiction of the KRMB once the Central government notifies the projects. It was also stipulated that for notifying the projects, the Central government has to consider the Tribunal Awards, if any.
In the case of Krishna, the Bachawat Tribunal Award is in force. The tribunal has not allocated to the States water project-wise but en bloc. It is necessary here, to understand what is meant by ‘en bloc’ allocation.
En bloc Allocation
At first instance, the Bachawat Tribunal had considered all the demands put forth by the States for individual projects, and all such demands, which were worth consideration based on certain criteria, were totalled and allocated to the respective States en bloc. Hence, erstwhile Andhra Pradesh was allocated 811 tmc en bloc.
The tribunal has clarified the meaning of en bloc allocations as: “We make it clear that water has been allocated to each of the three States en bloc and… each State shall have the right to make beneficial use of the water allocated to it in any manner it thinks proper.” “The allocations of water to the three States were not tied to any specific project or projects.”
In 2014, the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal (ie, Krishna River Water Disputes Tribunal-II) was given an extension on the basis of Section 89 of AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, to make project-wise specific allocations. The proceedings before KWDT-II are in progress.
In the absence of project-wise allocations, in 2015, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments, under the Union Government, made a temporary agreement for sharing waters of river Krishna among themselves in the ratio of 512: 299 respectively. R Vidyasagar Rao, then advisor to Telangana government, actively participated in those deliberations.
Of the total 811 tmc, the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh government had earmarked 512 tmc for the Andhra region and 299 tmc for Telangana. This was not acceptable to Telangana and it challenged it before the present KWDT-II. The 2015 agreement, with minor modifications, is still being followed by both the States.
At present, the projects are under the control of respective States as per their location except for common ones namely, the Srisailam project under the control of Andhra Pradesh and the Nagarunasagar Project under the control of Telangana. The indents are put forth by the States before the KRMB, as per their requirements, within the stipulations of the June 2015 agreement. The KRMB gives release orders based on the indents and available quantities and entitlements.
Since 2015, both the governments have obeyed the orders of the KRMB. Barring a few small aberrations, no noteworthy disobedience happened in these four years. Hence, the undue haste shown by the KRMB and the Union government to take complete control of the projects and maintain with the help of CISF is unwarranted.
It is pertinent to understand the basic issues underlying the whole episode of bringing the projects under the Union government without prior consent of one of the two member States – (i) the primacy of agreements over Acts and Orders of Tribunals and (ii) rights of a State over water are to be respected.
Noted engineer ND Gulhati in his book ‘Development of Inter-State Rivers: Law and Practice in India’ wrote: “The Central Government may lend its good offices in helping the States to enter into agreements for co-operative development of rivers of common concern, through the agency of River Boards, or otherwise. The Central Government may give grants and loans for the execution and even maintenance and operation of water resource development projects. The Central Government cannot, however, use or allocate river waters, or interfere with water rights, in any way. The States are the owners of the water rights and it is they who are responsible to the people for the development and use of waters for the benefit of the people.”
There are certain lacunae in the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, such as narrow scope of Seciton 89 references and lopsided list of projects in Schedule XI. There is no initiation from the Union government to amend the Act to rectify them. Further, the complaint of Telangana under Section 3 of the Interstate River Water Disputes Act,1956, is pending with the Union government since July 2014.
There are many issues, including inter-State issues, well within the purview of the Union government and the KRMB that can be resolved with proactive initiation. For instance, Polavaram (Pattiseema) diversions from river Godavari need to be accounted for in Krishna water sharing as per the inter-State agreement of 1978 and GWDT Award, and taking up modernisation of the RDS anicut – an inter-State project that has left the farmers of Telangana in distress for the last several decades.
Recently, State Irrigation Minister Harish Rao wrote a letter to the Union Minister for Water Resources to permit Telangana to use 90 tmc of Krishna water owing to the diversion of Godavari waters from Polavaram (Pattiseema) to Krishna basin, at least, from 2018-19 water year. Thus, the sharing ratio of Krishna water will change. The State government wrote several letters to the GoI and KRMB to resolve the issue but in vain.
Further, the KRMB has failed in installing discharge-measuring devices on important canals for the last two years. Interestingly, in this issue, so far, it has not utilised the expertise of the Central Water and Power Research Station, a prestigious organisation under the MoWR.
The people of Telangana expect that the Union government will lend cooperation in resolving their agonies keeping the federal spirit in view.
(The author is Secretary, Telangana Engineers JAC)