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Goa Opposition demand white paper on Mhadei river dispute

Panaji, Feb 24 (IANS) The Opposition in Goa on Monday jointly demanded a white paper on the state government’s position vis-a-vis the ongoing inter-state conflict with Karnataka over the water of the Mhadei river.

Addressing a press conference at the State Secretariat, Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat, along with leaders of other opposition parties, said that they were forced to seek a white paper because Chief Minister Pramod Sawant as well as other cabinet ministers were inconsistent in their statements on the issue.

On February 20, the apex court allowed notification of the Mhadei Water Dispute Tribunal award given in 2018, on a request made by the Karnataka government. Karnataka had claimed that the apex court’s nod for notification of the award was a major victory towards its efforts to divert water from the Mhadei river through its controversial Kalasa-Banduri dam project.

The Goa government, as well as the state BJP on the other hand has insisted that the nod is technical in nature.

Following pressure from the Opposition as well as civil society groups, Sawant subsequently said on February 21, that Goa would file an appeal before the Supreme Court to seek a stay on permissions which are likely to be sought by Karnataka for construction of the Kalasa-Banduri project, which aims to divert the Mhadei water to the Malaprabha river basin.

The Opposition has now alleges that the state government “did not even oppose” Karnataka counsel’s plea for notification of the award.

“We need all clarifications in the white paper. Did you (CM) give instructions to counsel not to oppose plea to SC for notification of Tribunal award. How could the government just keep quiet on this? If keeping quiet was a strategy, they should say there was a strategy,” former Deputy Chief Minister and President of the Goa Forward party Vijai Sardesai, who was also present at the press conference, told reporters.

Goa has opposed Karnataka’s controversial Kalasa-Banduri project along the Mhadei river, claiming diversion of water from the Mhadei basin through the canal would cause “ecological devastation” in the coastal state, where nearly half the population of 1.5 million depend on Mhadei river water.

The Mhadei river originates in Karnataka and meets the Arabian Sea near Panaji in Goa after briefly flowing through Maharashtra.

An inter-state water disputes tribunal, set up by the Central government after hearing the over two-decade-old Mhadei river water sharing dispute between Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra, in August 2018 allotted 13.42 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) (including 3.9 TMC for diversion into the depleted Malaprabha river basin) to Karnataka and 1.33 TMC to Maharashtra.

Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra governments have challenged several provisions of the award.

–IANS

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