A virtual war is going on between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on sharing Krishna waters. The issue is not new. It was always smouldering under the ashes and comes alive whenever AP ignites fresh trouble. It is a legacy of the erstwhile united AP administration — a case of majority political domination over a minority region. With 175 MLAs against 119, it was possible to browbeat Telangana in the united State and it has speciously happened in the case of Krishna water in favour of the Andhra region. Telangana was unable to get its legitimate share in the united State despite owning 68% catchment area of the Krishna river basin.
The Bachawat Tribunal, KWDT1, was appointed under the Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956, in 1969. The tribunal in its final verdict in 1976, awarded 800 tmc of water to erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, which included the Telangana region, at that time. Later, the AP government in the united State divided that water between regions in the State. They created notionally a new region Rayalaseema, which was not a separate entity when Andhra and Hyderabad States were force merged in 1956.
The division of Krishna water by the AP government to its three regions was felt to have been made arbitrarily without regard to the catchment and cultivable areas, and the population, which were supposed to be the basic criterion for such division. (see Infographics)
As if the injustice in the distribution of dependable water as estimated by the tribunal was not enough, the AP government went into over-utilisation of the so-called surplus and floodwaters in the Andhra region with its Cabinet decisions and government orders. For that, the Srisailam reservoir has become a backyard water trough for Rayalaseema, making manipulations in the drawdown levels in the hydel project, in the name of drinking water to Chennai, a Telugu Ganga project, Srisailam Right Bank Canal (SRBC) and all kinds of ‘srujala sravnthis’ to take Krishna water to irrigate the old Tungabhadra ayacut and also all the way to Penna basin areas, which are outside the Krishna Basin.
Even before the dependable water share of Telangana was used, Andhra and Rayalaseema used their share and built reservoirs exceeding 200 tmc capacity to draw floodwaters from Srisailam via the ever-widening Pothireddi Padu Regulator (PPR), through government orders. It did not matter much in the united State as long as it was an intra-State issue, because the minority Telangana region protests were stoutly ignored.
But even after the Telangana State came into existence, the manipulation has continued. The PPR which was originally designed for 11,000 cusecs, was increased to 44,000 cusecs before the merger, and now is being increased to 88,000 cusecs discharge capacity, to take water from the lowest level of the Srisailam project via its new controversial LI projects.
Another project is Pulichintala, constructed with 45 tmc capacity. The reservoir submerges 30,000 acres of Telangana lands but the ayacut is entirely in Andhra. Telangana has no share in its water for irrigation — the interesting thing is that the ayacut is Krishna delta and its adjoining areas. To stabilise a more than 150-year-old delta ayacut, water-starved Telangana lands were submerged. Even in the Nagarjuna Sagar project, so much manipulation took place. The ayacut, which was supposed to be 7.5 lakh acres for Andhra and Telangana each, ended up with more than 15 lakh acres to Andhra and 6-7 lakh acres to Telangana.
The Jurala project in Mahabubnagar — which is allotted 19.11 tmc — is built to utilise 6-7 tmc only for irrigation. It is an accumulation of such inequitable utilisation of water in between KDWT I award and the government orders before the bifurcation of the State, which are ad hoc in nature and have a controversial legal status. They are the cause for the present political war. The present Rayalaseema lift irrigation scheme seems to have become the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
KWDT, IRWD Act
The Brijesh Kumar Tribunal, KWDT2, came into existence to review the shares of the Krishna riparian States as a continuation to KWDT1 in 2010. It was about to give its final award in 2013 but it was stayed because of the bifurcation. The newly formed Telangana is the fourth riparian State in the Krishna river basin. The State wanted the central government to start the tribunal proceeding afresh as it was not a party to the earlier KWDT1 and KWDT2 adjudications.
Finally, the KWDT2 was extended and it was decided that the extended KWDT2 will confine redistribution of water between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh States only.
There is also a specific provision in AP Reorganisation Act 2014 – Section 89 – Allocation of water resources. The term of the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT) shall be extended with the following terms of reference: to make project-wise specific allocation, if such allocation has not been made earlier, and to determine an operational protocol for project-wise release of water in the event of deficit flows.
The Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956, (IRWD Act) says whenever the riparian States are not able to reach amicable agreements on their own in sharing of inter-State river waters, Section 4 of the IRWD Act provides a dispute resolution process in the form of a tribunal. As per Section 5.2 of the Act, the tribunal shall not only adjudicate but also investigate the matters referred to it by the Central government and make suitable award.
Telangana has requested the Central government to issue necessary terms of reference for the tribunal to review the water shares and make project-wise specific allocations. It has also withdrawn some cases pending before the Supreme Court, as advised by the Centre, to facilitate the issue of terms of reference. But the Centre is not issuing the terms of reference as laid down in the AP Reorganisation Act.
The issue is clearly a matter of inter-State dispute. The KWDT2 is in office and its mandate is to review the water share between AP and TS, make project-wise allocations and decide the operational protocol for the projects. Instead of referring the matter to the tribunal in all seriousness, the Central government indulging in never-ending and ineffective Krishna river board meetings, smacks of politics. It is a complex technical and legal issue. There is no better way than the tribunal to adjudicate on it and give a durable solution.
Why does the present Andhra Pradesh government, which is claiming to be right in all its Krishna river projects, not refer the whole issue to KWD2 as decided by SC and as is provided in the APR Act? Why this filibuster, political gamesmanship and dodging the issue in referring to the tribunal? It should understand now that Telangana is a separate State and has the right to demand its fair share of Krishna water and rectify the earlier unfair decisions as per the law of the land.
(The author is a freelance journalist)
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