The protest by people of North Karnataka demanding drinking water from the Mahadayi River has crossed 800 days and the protest has been intensified. Here are the reasons why Karnataka is pressing for the Mahadayi water and Goa is opposing it.
The Kalasa-Banduri project began when farmers of drought-hit areas of Navalgunda and Nargunda staged a protest against the government to redress their water problems
The Mahadayi River is the main river-based water source for Goa. In Goa, the river is named as 'Mandovi'. The river originates in the Sahyadri mountain range in Khanapur Taluk, Belagavi district, Karnataka and flows towards Goa, to eventually enter the Arabian Sea.
India has 14 major rivers, all of which are inter-state rivers, and 44 medium rivers, nine of which are inter-state rivers and Mahadayi is one river which flows from Karnataka to Maharashtra and Goa.
The river flows for 35 km within Karnataka before it enters Goa. Many tributary rivers of Karnataka - Kalasa, Banduri, Halataar, Chorla, Potla, Korla, Gurki etc., join the Mahadayi river.
Kalasa-Banduri project was intended to divert 7.56 TMC water of Kalasa and Banduri, the two main tributaries of the Mahadayi river, to the Malaprabha river and thus provide a permanent solution for the perennial water crisis in 13 taluks of four north Karnataka districts.
The Kalasa-Banduri project began when farmers of drought-hit areas of Navalgunda and Nargunda staged a protest against the government to redress their water problems.
R Gundu Rao, the then CM of Karnataka (1980 -83), formed the 'Bommai Committee' to solve this problem. The committee recommended that the government join Mahadayi river to the Malaprabha river. Thus the government decided to build dams to the tributaries of Mahadayi river.
However, Goa opposed the project citing ecological problems to the Western Ghats if water is diverted from Mahadayi or is called as Mandovi River in Goa.
When SR Bommaai himself became the CM in 1989, he spoke to the then CM of Goa - Pratap Singh Rana, and took his consent to build the dams. Over the years, the project got approvals from the forest department as well as from the central government.
But the project was not implemented since the Bommai-led government was dissolved in eight months.
During SM Krishna's period, the government once again tried to implement the project. HK Patil, the then minister for irrigation, renamed it as the 'Kalasa-Banduri Project'. Even the Vajpayee government in the centre gave its approval for the project.
But once again, Goa appealed to the central government to stop the project. At that time, Manohar Parikkar was the CM of Goa.
In 2006, the then Karnataka CM, HD Kumaraswamy, also tried to revive the project. But the Goa government, this time, approached the Supreme Court.
Goa’s main objection is that the Kalasa-Banduri project may create an ecological imbalance in their state. Besides, Mahadayi is the main river-based water source for Goa.
In 2009, the Supreme Court ordered the creation of a tribunal to address the crisis. After the formation of the tribunal, Goa made a formal appeal to stop the 'Kalasa-Banduri Project', but tribunal did not accede to that request. Goa submitted another appeal, this time requesting the project be put on hold until the final verdict.
Considering the second appeal, the tribunal, in 2014, issued an interim order to halt the project until the final order was announced. The final order was expected in December 2015. But so far the tribunal has not given its decree.
Why Karnataka lost its appeal:
Earlier, the Karnataka government had given in writing to the tribunal saying that it will start the work only after the permission from the Environment Department. But it did not keep its promise and started the work of the project.
The advocates of the government failed to convince the tribunal that 7 TMC water is being wasted in the sea. The advocates failed to assert that there is sufficient water in three notified places from where the government intends to get water.
Finally, the Tribunal instructed the advocates of Karnataka to study the Potamology (the physical science of rivers) before claiming that the Mahadayi's waters are being wasted in the ocean.
As the elections are nearing in Karnataka, the people of North Karnataka, facing acute drinking water problem have intensified their protest, and the political parties are in a fix, not being able to solve the problem as both BJP and Congress parties in Goa are opposed to letting Mahadayi water into Karnataka. Thus both the parties cannot promise anything to people.
BJP is seriously in a fix as there is BJP government in Goa and Karnataka Congress government is blaming the BJP-led Centre and Goa government for failure to get water into Karnataka. However, Congress party's protest in Goa has become a problem to Karnataka government too.