By Suresh Ghattamaneni
Kalvakuntla Chandrasekar Rao, the chief minister of Telangana, along with his cabinet colleagues and bureaucrats was welcomed in Hyderabad by farmers and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party cadre who flocked to the capital city from the districts. Begumpet Airport, which is otherwise disbanded after the new airport in Shamshabad started operating has witnessed massive crowds which in fact have become a nightmare for the commuters who have taken that route.
It was a historic day for the state of Telangana as the decade-long discord with its neighboring state Maharashtra on river water sharing was put to an end in an amicable way by signing Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) on sharing Godavari river water between the drought prone regions of Telangana and the tribal areas of Maharashtra. As per the MoUs, the two states shall build five barrages on the river Godavari and its tributaries Pranahita and Penganga.
Of the five barrages, Maharashtra will build projects at Rajapet and Penpahad while Telangana will build the remaining three projects Chanakha and Korata, Tummidihatti and Medigadda. The Telangana government has already given administrative sanction for Chanakha-Korata with an estimated cost of over Rs.1,200 crore.
As reported by Hans India, Telangana Minister for Irrigation Harish Rao Thanneeru has said that this development would lead to stabilization of 20 lakh acres and bring another 20 lakh acres under irrigation.
Significance of the pact
Godavari River, dubbed as “Dakshina Ganga” is the second largest river in the country along with its tributaries, and drains the states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. The catchment area under Godavari in Telangana is 61780 sq. kms which is significantly higher than the Andhra region (16420 sq. kms) where as the irrigated area in Telangana has been half that of Andhra. This was always a matter of contention strengthening the demand for a separate state.
In this context, after the formation of Telangana, an attempt to optimally utilize the Godavari water is made and finally operationalised by the present government through its ground-breaking approach to the issue by resolving the protracted inter- state disputes in amicable way.
The agreements signed are believed to be historic as the dispute resolution mechanism adopted by the states- focused on sharing their views, studying the objections of each other and thereafter negotiating based on the principle of “give and take”. The spirit of accommodation shown by both the states is exemplary considering the fact that Inter State River Water disputes are abounding in our country.
Political will is all that’s required
The Congress party, the major opposition in the state of Telangana has alleged that the state has made a compromise to Maharashtra, especially in the case of the Tummidihatti barrage across Pranahita River (largest tributary of Godavari), wherein the height of the barrage has been reduced by 4 metres (from 152 to 148 m). The opposition referred to the earlier agreement made in 2012 by the then chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy with his counterpart in Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan wherein the barrage height was maintained at 152 m. The Congress was in power in both the states (Maharashtra and erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh) for a long period of time, but did not make any substantial progress and had failed to keep the interests of the people above all the odds in the case of irrigation projects.
One of the noteworthy aspects of the accord is that it enables setting up an inter-state water board that will look into the agreements reached between erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, construction of projects in future ensuring mutual advantage. The accord is considered historic not merely for the resolution of decade-old disputes, but for the methodology adopted to resolve it in a peaceful way without having to wait for long years as the case has been in other states trying to resolve water issues. The government of Telangana has displayed its political will to take forward the irrigation projects that would benefit a large sections of its population in the drought prone districts.
A way forward for warring states
Water, being a state subject, the union government is not supposed to intervene unless the states want it to. The Telangana government has paved a new path for inter-state water dispute resolution for all the warring states who repeatedly knocked on the doors of the union government for resolving their disputes. The gestures shown by the chief ministers of Telangana and Maharashtra are appreciable considering the fact that they do not belong to the same political parties.
With the underground water levels drastically falling, there is an immediate need for the optimal utilization of the river water by the states. In the case of Telangana, Godavari flows at a low level, making lift irrigation mandatory at many places as the possibility for gravity projects is limited. This pressing need for irrigation projects made the state work relentlessly on resolving the issues with the neighbouring states and ensuring that the path gets cleared for its mission to bring around one lakh acres under irrigation each in all the districts of the state.
Both the states have paved a new path of cooperation for their development. The chief ministers of both the states have shown a spirit of accommodation creating a win-win situation for both the states and also illustrating the need for keeping aside politics to harness natural resources for the development of people. The chief minister of Telangana saying that similar initiative will be taken up with Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh is a welcome statement.