As per the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal Award (GWDT), detailed project report submitted to the Central Water Commission subsequently and GOs by erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, it is clear that water availability for Srisailam Left Bank Canal is based on the dependable waters, out of the share from Godavari diversions through the Polavaram project. Since the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, is silent on this issue, it is the duty of the Union government to implement the provisions of the GWDT Award.
Since 1956, successive Andhra Pradesh governments have focused their attention on irrigation facilities to Andhra areas. In the Krishna basin, Andhra Pradesh secured allocations to serve outside basin areas in the Andhra region while neglecting inside basin areas of Telangana. As a region, Telangana was not allowed to put forth its arguments before the Tribunals. However, Karnataka and Maharashtra have strongly protested the over-appropriation and outside basin diversions by Andhra Pradesh. They have also pointed out the undue influence and clout of Andhraites in Delhi.
Maharashtra submitted: “Since this water shortage had been created by over-appropriations by Andhra Pradesh with evident assistance of the Centre, it was the responsibility of the Andhra Pradesh government to take up this work of diversion at its own cost and meet its water requirement from its share of the Godavari waters…” Karanataka submitted: “If Andhra Pradesh desires to irrigate lands outside the Krishna Basin, she could well divert the surplus waters of Godavari for such purposes.”
Further, Maharashtra and Karnataka submitted before the KWDT-I that in the event of augmentation of Krishna water by the diversion of the Godavari waters, the Ganga or any other river, liberty should be reserved to them to claim the benefits of the diverted waters. In 1971, before the GWDT and the KWDT-I, a joint statement was submitted by all the riparian states of Godavari and Krishna basins stating that the States will be at liberty to divert any part of the share of the Godavari waters allocated to them from the Godavari basin to any other basin.
Hence, in the Krishna case, the KWDT-I (1976) decided that in the event of the augmentation of the waters of the river Krishna by the diversion of the waters of any other river, no State shall be debarred from claiming before the reviewing authority or tribunal that it is entitled to a greater share in Krishna waters.
In May 1978, Andhra Pradesh submitted the Polavaram project report before the GWDT. On the submergence issue, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa opposed it. Maharashtra and Karnataka, which were also basin States of Godavari were very interested in the diversion part of this project. Finally, on August 4, 1978, an agreement was signed so that the three riparian States of the Krishna basin would share the diversions from Polavaram. It was agreed that in lieu of 80 TMC of Godavari waters, diverted from the Polavaram project into Krishna above Prakasham barrage, Maharashtra and Karnataka shall utilise 35 TMC of Krishna waters and the erstwhile AP, 45 TMC for the areas upstream of Nagarjunasagar. It was also stipulated that the CWC could make the utilisations from the date of clearance of the Polavaram project, irrespective of the actual diversion taking place.
Due to various issues, taking up the Polavaram project was being delayed. Meanwhile, based on its share of 45 TMC of Polavaram diversions, Andhra Pradesh proposed the Srisailam Right Branch Canal (SRBC) serving outside basin in the Andhra region and the Srisailam Left Bank Canal (SLBC) serving inside the basin in the Telangana region. Sensing possible delay in Polavaram, the then AP government shifted the basis of water availability of the SRBC from Polavaram diversions to dependable flows, namely, return flows and savings out of modernisation of projects.
We need to know that since all the Telangana projects are in-basin projects, 90% of the return flows belong to the Telangana region but have been reallocated by erstwhile AP to the outside basin project SRBC. Based on it, the AP government obtained clearance for the SRBC from the Planning Commission in 1981. But the SLBC was kept under the same water availability, ie, out of 45 TMC of Polavaram diversions.
In 1986, the CWC returned the DPR of SLBC advising to resubmit after the clearance of the Polavaram project since the water availability is based on Polavaram diversions. In 2009, the Polavaram project received all clearances from the Centre. Karnataka and Maharashtra have already taken up projects based on their share of Polavaram diversions. However, erstwhile AP did not resubmit the DPR of SLBC to the CWC for clearance. In March 2013, the State Level Technical Advisory Committee also recommended for reallocation of 30 TMC out of 45 TMC of the share from Polavaram diversions to SLBC.
In the AP Reorganisation Act, this issue was not addressed. Telangana thought that the Act was silent since it was an established fact that SLBC was based on the share of dependable waters of Polavaram diversions. The Telangana government had approached the Centre on the issue. Instead of clarifying, it constituted an expert committee in 2016 to resolve the issue, which became dormant. In the inter-State meeting in February 2018, Telangana requested the Centre to allocate the water to it based on the August, 1978 agreement, but in vain.
The sorry state of the Centre’s response can be seen from the minutes of the latest KRMB meeting in June 2020 which states that “the issue was discussed in the Ministry of Jalashakti in February 2018 and was recorded that Ministry will examine the issue for taking a further course of action. KRMB will submit the opinions of both the States to the Ministry in this regard.”
Ironically, in the Apex Council Meeting in October 2020, it was recorded that “as per the GWDT report, Telangana is asking for its share of 45 TMC from out of the waters diverted by AP from Godavari River to Krishna River” but did not decide on it. At the same time, surprisingly, without having allocations decided for the projects by the KWDT-II, the Centre expressed that it would notify the jurisdiction of the KRMB though the Telangana Chief Minister opposed such a move in the 2nd Apex Council Meeting on October 6.
Eleven years have elapsed since the Polavaram project was cleared. At least now, the Union government should act to implement the provisions of Tribunal Award with regard to Polavaram diversions.
(Sridhar Rao Deshpande is Co-Chairman and Salla Vijaya Kumar is Secretary, Telangana Engineers JAC)
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