Polavaram project dispute: Supreme Court asks Centre, six states to file 'specific affidavits'

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre and six states, including Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, to file "specific affidavits" stating they were bound by the 1980 award of Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal, which had adjudicated the river water utilisation disputes among the basin states of Godavari and Krishna.

Besides the Centre, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, the apex court asked Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Karnataka to file affidavits in this regard within four weeks.

A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said this while hearing a matter related to the Indira Sagar Polavaram Project on river Godavari in Andhra Pradesh.

The Polavaram project on Godavari in Andhra Pradesh is a multi-purpose irrigation project which has been accorded the status of a national project.

During the hearing, counsel appearing for Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and other states told the bench that they were bound by the terms of Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal award of 1980. The Centre had in 1980 accepted the verdict of Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal and made it binding on the concerned river basin states. According to the tribunal's verdict, the agreements arrived between the riparian states at the sub-basin level were vetted by the states of the entire Godavari basin and no state could back out of the total tribunal award.

FIle image of Supreme Court. Reuters

FIle image of Supreme Court. Reuters

Odisha's counsel told the apex court that they were not pressing their plea seeking blanket injunction for Andhra Pradesh from proceeding with construction of the Polavaram project, but that it should be done in accordance with the 1980 tribunal award and other laws.

"The chief secretaries of Odisha and defendant states Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka and secretary of water resource department of the Union of India should file specific affidavits in this regard within four weeks stating that their respective governments are bound by the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal award," the bench said and posted the matter for hearing on 17 April.

When the Centre's counsel told the court that chief ministers of these states should meet and discuss the issue, the bench said, "that is for you to decide. If you want to have meeting, you can have it".

The bench clarified that the pendency of the matter in the apex court does not preclude the chief ministers of these states to meet and discuss the issue.

Odisha's counsel raised the issue of submergence of a number of villages in their state due to the construction of Polavaram project.

The project is under construction in West and East Godavari Districts of Andhra Pradesh and its reservoir spreads to parts of Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The apex court had earlier sought the Centre's response on a separate plea alleging violation of rights of Scheduled Tribes and forest dwellers due to the Polavaram Project.

The petition has claimed that the project will submerge about 600 habitations in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Telangana and also about 8,000 acres of forest and 500 acres of the wild life sanctuary.

The environment clearance of the project was cancelled by the National Environment Appellate Authority in 2007 but the Andhra Pradesh High Court had stayed it as an interim measure.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest had given a direction to stop the construction work of the project on 8 February, 2011, but had later kept its own order in abeyance.

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Updated Date: Feb 15, 2018 20:14:33 IST

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