For Odisha BJP, Mahanadi water dispute is a spike in its throat
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For Odisha BJP, Mahanadi water dispute is a spike in its throat

 

Mahanadi River Dispute

Picture: Odisha Samay

Bhubaneswar |

Last updated June 24, 2017 02:54:50 AM +0530

  Mahanadi, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, BJP, BJD, River, Dispute

Despite the fact that the present government in Odisha is worried about Mahanadi to keep its promises made to the industries for supply of water and to fulfil its further industrialisation dreams, BJP cannot gain much by raising it against the BJD government in Odisha as its own party led government in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh is already exposed to be the worst exploiter of Mahanadi and other rivers flowing in the state. People may rather count it as a face saving attempt by BJP in case it attacks BJD on the ground of industrial supply of Mahanadi water.

 

The ongoing war of words between the governments as well as leaders of political parties enjoying power in Odisha and Chhattisgarh over release of Mahanadi water through Kalma barrage in Chhattisgarh, upstream of Hirakud dam in Odisha, has not only made the river a political issue but escalated the Manadi River Water Dispute to another full-fledged inter state river conflict in India.

Of the both parties now face to face on Mahanadi river dispute, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), the regional party, is in power in Odisha since 2000 and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also leads the union government of India, is in rule in the state of Chhattisgarh since 2008.

Odisha’s futile exercises

In the core of the dispute is construction of several barrages by the Chhattisgarh government unilaterally, as alleged by Odisha, on upstream Mahanadi depriving the later of its share of river water.

Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, has raised the issue in all suitable forums and has also approached the Supreme Court (SC) against Chhattisgarh seeking an injunction to put all construction activities on upstream Mahanadi on hold.

Chhattisgarh government, on the other hand, has rejected all appeals to put the construction works on hold saying that “most of the ongoing projects were started 10 years back and they are in their final stages of completion. Hence, it is not possible to stop the construction on these projects,” according to the minute of the meeting of Chief Ministers of both the states held on September 17, 2016.

In a recent letter addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Odisha CM has expressed his concern over construction of six barrages across Mahanadi River, upstream of Hirakud dam, and blocking the flow of Mahanadi at the Kalma barrage in Chhattisgarh, close to the border between the two states.

In order to allow Mahanadi flowing, Naveen has sought immediate intervention by the PM in this matter.
So far, however, no step by the Odisha government has brought even a little respite to the state while the case filed at the apex court is still pending.

A troubled Odisha BJP

The failure of BJD led Odisha government in ensuring water flow in downstream Mahanadi River, up to Hirakud Dam, could have been an opportunity for Odisha unit of BJP, that performed unexpectedly well in the bygone rural local body elections in the state, to play it aggressively against Naveen Patnaik government.

But, unfortunately, as the BJP led government in Chhattisgarh is in question for over-exploiting Mahandi, blocking its flow downstream, and is involved in sell-out of rivers and water resources to private companies and industrial houses since its formation, any aggressive play of the issue by Odisha BJP against Naveen Patnaik government in regard to Mahanadi is seen by the people as anti-Odisha and against the interest of farmers and basin communities who depend on the river for their livelihood.

Despite the fact that the present government in Odisha is worried about Mahanadi to keep its promises made to the industries for supply of water and to fulfil its further industrialisation dreams, BJP cannot gain much by raising it against the BJD government in Odisha as its own party led government in the neighbouring Chhattisgarh is already exposed to be the worst exploiter of Mahanadi and other rivers flowing in the state. People may rather count it as a face saving attempt by BJP in case it attacks BJD on the ground of industrial supply of Mahanadi water.

To further worry of BJP, Mahandi is closely associated with the life of people in western Odisha where BJP has improved its base after long years of work. The water scarcity due to blockage of the flow of Mahanadi at Kalma barrage in Chhattisgarh has also been severely experienced in this part of the state as reported by media from districts like Bargarh and Jharsuguda.

People also do not take well the questions from BJP leaders that why the Naveen led Odisha government was sleeping till today while Chhattisgarh government started construction works on the river more than a decade ago?

As people come across information defining reasons behind the water scarcity during this summer, they have started asking – their party being a partner of the Naveen Patnaik government till 2009, what the BJP leaders of Odisha were doing then? Why didn’t they bring the ill-doings of Chhattisgarh government to the notice of the government and the people of Odisha? Was it because their party in Chhattisgarh was engaged in such acts against the interest of Odisha and its farming communities living Mahanadi basins?

Looking at the public pressure for protection of Odisha’s right over Mahanadi water and the emotional build-up taking place in the state in favour of demands placed by Odisha government, India’s petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan - the BJP leader from Odisha elected from Bihar to the Rajya Sabha (upper house of Indian Parliament) – has written a letter requesting intervention by the union water resource minister Uma Bharti to ensure free flow of Mahanadi.

While this request letter from the petroleum minister has fetched no result in favour of Odisha yet, Pradhan’s last year’s statement confirming formation of a separate tribunal for resolution of the Mahanadi River Water Dispute remains unfulfilled till date maybe because Chhattisgarh doesn’t want it and the union water resource ministry has plans to form a single tribunal to deal with all inter-state river water disputes by amending the existing Act.

Despite the issue regarding Odisha’s share of Mahanadi water being reported widely by media and discussed by civil society forums, leaders of Odisha BJP are yet to be critical, or at least suggestive, about the unilateral actions of Chhattisgarh government against the interests of Mahanadi, the state of Odisha and its people at large.

It seems that the issue has become a spike the throat of Odisha BJP which is difficult to swallow down or vomit up.

 

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