Karnataka ready for talks with Goa on Mahadayi water: Siddaramaiah

Bengaluru: Karnataka is ready for talks with Goa on the Mahadayi river water sharing issue to meet the drinking needs of the state’s four drought-prone districts, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said on Saturday.

“We are ready for talks if Goa Chief Minister (Manohar Parrikar) convenes a meeting to amicably negotiate the sharing of river water,” Siddarmaiah told reporters after an all-party meeting on the issue failed to reach a consensus here.

The four districts are Bagalkote, Belagavi, Dharwad and Gadag in Karnataka’s north-west region, 400-550 km from state capital Bengaluru.

As the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) disagreed with the ruling Congress and other parties that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervene to resolve the issue, the Chief Minister said he would convince his party’s leaders in Goa to urge their state government to share water to meet the drinking needs of people in the region.

“Barring the BJP, other parties, including the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), also sought Prime Minister’s intervention in the inter-state river water dispute instead of waiting for a judicial verdict,” Siddaramaiah said.

A BJP leader, however, told IANS that Modi’s intervention was “unwarranted”, as Parrikar had offered to discuss the issue with Karnataka if the Congress leaders in Goa agreed to the sharing of river water.

“As the inter-state issue is before the Supreme Court and the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal and hence sub judice, how can the Prime Minister intervene when it was the then Congress government in Goa which went to the apex court and got a tribunal set up to resolve the issue,” asked the BJP leader.

The 77-km-long Mahadayi or Mandovi river originates at Bhimgad in the Western Ghats in Belagavi district and flows into the neighbouring Goa and joins the Arabian Sea off the West Coast.

Though the river flows for 29 km in Karnataka and 52 km in Goa, its catchment area is spread over 2,032 km in the southern state as against 1,580 km in Goa.

Karnataka has been asking Goa since 2001 to release 7.6 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of the river water to meet drinking and irrigation needs of people in its drought-prone districts.

Karnataka plans to build two canals across Kalasa and Banduri tributaries of the river in the state to divert and supply water to the four districts.

The Tribunal, headed by J.N. Panchal, on July 28, 2016, rejected the state’s petition for releasing the water, citing various grounds, including ecological damage the twin canal projects may cause.

“Though I have written many letters to the Prime Minister and Parrikar for an out-of-court or outside-Tribunal settlement, there has been no response from either till date,” Siddaramaiah rued.

Appealing to the BJP for seeking Modi’s intervention, the Chief Minister said he was ready to lead an all-party delegation to meet the Prime Minister in New Delhi and convince him to resolve the issue at the earliest.

The Chief Minister also objected to Parrikar writing to BJP state unit President B.S. Yeddyurappa last month rather than him to discuss the issue.

“Yeddyurappa is a former BJP Chief Minister of Karnataka. He is the BJP state unit President and a Lok Sabha member from Shivamogga in Malnad (region). Parrikar’s offer letter is personal and not official as not even a copy of it was marked or sent to my office,” Siddaramaiah said.

BJP’s central Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda from the state, its opposition leaders in state Assembly Jagadish Shettar and Legislative Council K.S. Eshwarappa, former JD-S Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and JD-S lawmaker in the Council Basavaraj Horatti and farmer representatives from the affected region participated in the three-hour meeting at the state’s Secretariat in the city centre.