Thursday 30 May 2024

Legislative committee on Mhadei inactive for months

Shweta Kamat Mahatme | OCTOBER 19, 2023, 12:29 AM IST

Ten months have passed since the formation of the 12-member House Committee of the Goa Legislative Assembly to study the contentious issue related to the diversion of Mhadei water. The committee, led by WRD Minister Subhash Shirodkar, has met only once since its formation. This meeting took place on February 8.

Since that date, Goa has been shocked and dismayed by actions taken by Karnataka, yet the response from the State has been minimal. More than 50 percent of the population in Goa depends on the Mhadei River for survival. The State is relying solely on a special leave petition filed before the Supreme Court challenging the Mhadei Water Dispute Tribunal Award of 2018.

The House Committee comprises members from various political parties, including the BJP, Congress, MGP, GFP, AAP, RG, and Independent MLAs. Despite this, legislators either appear least concerned or are no closer to convincing the Committee Chairman to call for a meeting.

At the initial House Committee meeting held almost nine months ago, it was decided to appoint a panel of consultants and experts within the next 15 to 20 days to assess the consequences of diverting the Mhadei River to Goa. However, to date, neither consultants nor experts have been engaged, and the views of experts like Rajendra Kerkar have not been considered. Despite recognizing that an expert report would be crucial in the legal battle, the House Committee has not expedited the process of involving experts.

When contacted, Shirodkar declined to comment on the issue but assured that he would make a statement on this matter next week. “I will make a statement on this next week. Will also tell the date of the next meeting,” he told The Goan.

Both opposition and ruling MLAs, who are part of the 12-member committee, suggested that experts of national repute should be appointed to study the impact of water diversion. They emphasized that the report should be submitted to the Supreme Court to strengthen Goa’s case. However, their recommendations were disregarded.

During the monsoon session held in July and August, Leader of the Opposition Yuri Alemao, MLA Vijai Sardesai, and MLA Venzy Viegas raised concerns about the failure to convene a meeting. In response, Shirodkar assured that a meeting would be called soon after the session, which concluded on August 11.

Meanwhile, Karnataka has taken several actions that have surprised Goa. Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd (KNNL) recently issued a tender to complete the Kalasa project within a year. According to the tender, the Karnataka government has decided to dam and divert the waters of Kalasa, Surla, and Haltara nullahs that naturally flow into the Mhadei.

This was followed by the Karnataka State Board of Wildlife granting permission for the acquisition of forest land for the diversion of Kalasa Nala to the Malaprabha basin. Goa’s primary contention is that Karnataka cannot proceed without the consent of the Goa Chief Wildlife Warden under the Wildlife Protection Act.

Although the Supreme Court has not granted any significant relief to the State, all eyes are now on the hearing scheduled for November 28.

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