Wednesday 17 Jul 2024

Stop beating drums of victory over Mhadei ‘inspection’

| JULY 10, 2024, 12:14 AM IST

The focus of attention has been on the six-day site familiarisation visits, termed ‘site inspections’, of the Mhadei basin by members of the Progressive Authority for Water and Harmony (Prawah). There has been heedless optimism on both sides of the fence with organisations in the Belagavi region claiming that Goa has suffered a major setback with the visiting team not finding any violations on the ground. On the flip side, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant stated that Karnataka will stand exposed on the Mhadei visit and added that “the misdeeds carried out by Karnataka will be exposed”.  

The positive side for Goa is that despite stiff opposition from Kannada organisations to site visits in that region, the teams halted at the Kalsa-Bandura project in Kanakumbi and inspected the ongoing project work in the Mhadei basin with police protection. To assume victory on account of the opposition of Kannada groups to the visit is far-fetched. What is crucial however is to understand what has been covered, the sites visited and what has been recorded in the report. Outside of this, everything is sheer rhetoric.  

Sources who were following the issue closely revealed that although the team got a walk-through in some areas, including places where vent plugging was done, and the crucial end-conduit where water is diverted to the Malaprabha basin. However, the team completely skipped the Parwad Nullah from where there is a reverse flow of water that indicates water diversion.  

We cannot ignore the fact that Goa is fighting a grim battle against neighbouring Karnataka, a much larger State with tremendous political clout with the Centre. It may be noted that even during this inspection, Goa was completely outnumbered with its three-member team facing a contingent of over 20 members that included an advisor who was allowed to be part of the Prawah discussions.  

The team was taken on a brief tour of Sattari, Bardez and Bicholim talukas on day one and shown the problem areas and how significant the flow of Mhadei is to water bodies here. On this count, the Prawah visit is ill-timed because it comes against the backdrop of the monsoon when rivers are in spate. At this time it would be illogical to impress upon the point that the Mhadei water diversion is indeed going to dry up water flow to Goa. In May, this could have been a different story.   

Goa has been maintaining that the flow of water has been reducing over the past few years and has been blaming it on Karnataka’s work of building embankments and diverting Kalsa waters against its natural flow into the Malaprabha basin. Has the Goa delegation proven this point? Or are we claiming victory once again and trying to keep everyone in good humour?  

Much would depend on what the Prawah has concluded, and claiming victory at this stage would be premature. Once bitten, twice shy goes the adage, and the past still haunts when the Goa government under the regime of Manohar Parrikar claimed victory when the Mhadei tribunal gave its award in August 2018, without understanding the fact that Karnataka was allowed to divert 3.9 tmcft.   

Mhadei has been a very emotive issue, both for Goa and Karnataka, and its time leaders refrain from giving it a political spin. None of Goa’s representatives have made a comment, and neither is there any word on what transpired at the Bengaluru meeting. Let’s not get swayed by political voices either from Goa or Karnataka because at the heart of the issue is water and at either extremes are politicos exploiting the situation and giving a false sense of accomplishment.

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