Odisha Reels Under Tribunal Award

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Observers described the verdict of the tribunal as disappointing. They said it did not address the concerns raised by Odisha. However, a ruling Biju Janata Dal spokesperson ought to put up a brave face. “I think the state government has got what it expected from the tribunal.”

In what is being seen as a blow to Odisha government a river water dispute tribunal recently gave green signal to Andhra Pradesh for the construction of Neradi barrage and a side weir at Katragada on river Vansdhara with certain conditions. Both the projects are crucial to Andhra Pradesh but are likely to cause problems in Odisha.

The Vansadhara Water Dispute Tribunal (VWDT) set up in 2010 to look into the dispute between the two states over the sharing of river’s water also ordered the formation of a supervisory committee to monitor the implementation of its order.

Though the two states in 1962 had agreed to share the river waters on a 50:50 basis, a dispute arose when Andhra Pradesh in 1990 proposed the construction of Neradi barrage on the river that originates in Odisha’s Kalahandi district and flows into the Bay of Bengal after traversing 154 kms in the state.

Odisha apprehended inundation in parts of Gunpur and its adjoining areas in Rayagada district because of the project and had argued that state’s water needs would be prejudicially affected by the project. With these arguments it had lodged a protest with the Centre in  2006.

After that the state government had also approached the Supreme Court which on February 2, 2007 directed the Centre to set up the tribunal for which a notification was issued on February 24, 2010.

”The tribunal hereby permits the state of Andhra Pradesh to construct the Neradi Barrage across the river Vansadhara with ancillary structures,” the tribunal said in the order. While the VWDT permitted Andhra Pradesh to withdraw the river water from the barrage during first crop period (from June 1 to November 30 every year), it said that all  flows thereafter should be let down in the river for use by both the states as agreed upon.

The tribunal also permitted Andhra Pradesh to construct the side weir alongwith ancillary structures with the condition that it can withdraw water from the weir only up to eight thousand million cubic feet (TMC) between June 1 and November 30 every year. The side weir at Katragada has to be totally plugged and made non-functional once the Neradi barrage is commissioned, the tribunal clarified.

The four-member supervisory committee announced by the VWDT will have two members from Central Water Commission (CWC) and one each from Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.

The tribunal in its order also made provisions for payment of compensation to Odisha for any damages caused by the backwaters of Neradi barrage. “The state of Andhra Pradesh, on the recommendation of the Supervisory Committee, which shall be final and binding, shall make the payment to the state of Odisha on account of the compensation for the damages, if any, caused by backwater of Neradi Barrage beyond its pool level,” it said.

A former engineer-in-chief, Odisha’s water resources department described the verdict of the tribunal as disappointing and said it did not address the concerns raised by Odisha government. However, a ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) spokesperson ought to put up a brave face. “ I think the state government has got what it expected from the tribunal,” he said.

On the other hand members of Vansdhara Ababahika Samiti, a voluntary body working to protect the interests of people in the river’s catchment area in Odisha, expressed their concern over the future of the people living in the area likely to be affected by the project.

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