In his Independence Day speech on Monday, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik focused on the Mahanadi river water dispute between the state and neighbour Chhattisgarh.
Stating that no single state should try to enjoy exclusive rights on the water of rivers passing through several provinces, Patnaik said such attempts were against the federal spirit."The government is making sincere effort to resolve Mahanadi river water sharing issue and we believe it will be successful," he said.
The Mahanadi, which has been a serious bone of contention between the two states, snowballed into a major political issue with the BJD deputing a 12-member team to Chhattisgarh last week to inspect the construction of certain projects upstream. The BJD team comprises of three former engineers-in-chief of Odisha government for technical advice. The team submitted its report to Patnaik.
The team alleged that the Chhattisgarh government has been supplying water from the controversial Kelo project to industries, instead of using it for drinking and irrigation purposes. Further, BJP spokesperson and team member PK Deb stated that the Chhattisgarh government constructed the Kelo project without consulting the Odisha government.
Odisha, according to a report by The Hindu BusinessLine, is reportedly alarmed by Chhattisgarh's plans to build 13 barrages across the Mahanadi, in a plan to extract more water. Chhattisgarh has also been constructing seven pick up weirs (small dams) across the river, a move that sees vehement opposition from Patnaik, who has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention in the matter, reported The Times of India. Patnaik is against the building of dams and barrages on Mahanadi citing that such constructions would adversely affect interests of their farmers.
Patnaik's letter to Modi details the Odisha people's cultural and emotional relationship with the Mahanadi: It was across the river that Hirakud dam was built, a multipurpose river valley project built immediately after India's Independence. The TOI report added that the seven pick-up weirs and other projects will have an adverse impact on the flow of water in the Hirakud reservoir.
The dispute has also furthered all non-BJD political parties in Odisha on 10 August to urge the President to direct the Chhattishgarh government to stop the construction and to save the lives of millions of people living downstream.
The Congress has also called for a bandh on Tuesday to demand the Centre's intervention for halting construction of barrages and dams on the Mahanadi.
On 9 August, the Orissa High Court asked the standing counsel of the state and the Centre to get instructions from their respective governments within 10 days on a case filed along with a PIL over the recent Mahanadi river dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
The Mahanadi Bachao Manch, which filed the PIL, in a separate miscellaneous case had alleged that there were claims and counter-claims by the two state governments over keeping the people in the loop about the projects of the Chhattsigarh government which are coming up in the upper basin of the river. The Orissa High Court on Tuesday asked the standing counsels of the state and Centre to get instructions from their respective governments within 10 days on a miscellaneous case filed along with a PIL by an outfit in the name of Mahanadi Bachao Manch over the recent river dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh.
Senior BJP leader Bijay Mohapatra demanded the immediate formation of a river board to resolve the Mahanadi water row between Odisha and Chhattisgarh and that the Odisha government should send a formal proposal to the Centre on the same, "as per the provision of the River Boards Act, 1956 for resolving the inter-state river row".
Mahanadi, one of the most-active silt-depositing streams in India, rises in Madhya Pradesh and follows a course of 900 km, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.