A minister in the Goa government has tried to defend the Union ministry of environment over its go-ahead to Karnataka to construct an Rs 800 crore diversion project on the Mahadayi River without a clearance, a step slammed by the opposition as well as the BJP dispensation in the coastal state.
The Union ministry, in a letter to the Karnataka government, noted that the scheme “doesn’t envisage creating new command area or providing water to suffering existing command areas for irrigation”.
“Also the project doesn’t involve hydroelectric power generation [and] is purely a drinking water supply scheme and does not attract the provisions of the EIA notification 2006 and its subsequent amendments,” the letter had said.
Michael Lobo, the minister for solid waste management, said the Union environment ministry granted Karnataka a green signal for the project for “political reasons”.
“Sometimes these types of letters are given for political reasons… People have to understand there are by-polls there, new elections could take place there, [the] political situation is not that good over there,” Lobo said.
Opposition parties in the coastal state have criticised the Centre’s move.
Vijai Sardesai, the leader of the Goa Forward Party, had alleged that Goa’s interests were being overlooked for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) benefit in the Karnataka elections.
“Goa’s interests were being sacrificed for across the border political considerations,” Sardesai said.
The Congress party too had expressed similar sentiments.
“Goa has fallen prey to the BJP’s national political trend of using politics purely for electoral ends. The BJP is trying to finish Goa with this Mhadei (Mahadayi) decision. Goa cannot survive without Mhadei,” the chief of Congress’ Goa unit Girish Chodankar said.
The Goa government has also objected to this letter and sought its withdrawal.
An all-party delegation, which met environment minister Prakash Javadekar earlier this week, has pointed out that Karnataka misled the Centre by claiming that the Khalsa-Banduri Dam is a solely a drinking water project.
Javadekar then sought 10 days’ time to respond to the Goa government’s concerns.
The massive project envisages the diversion of west-flowing streams in the Mahadayi basin to the allegedly water-deficit Malaprabha basin by the construction of dams across the Haltara, Kalasa and Banduri streams.
The project proposes to divert 7.56 TMC of water during monsoon season through interconnecting gravity canals for crossing the ridges at the cost of Rs 840.52 crore.
The river diversion project, which was stalled due to opposition by the Goa government, led to the creation of the Mahadayi Interstate Water Disputes Tribunal.
This isn’t the first time the BJP has been accused of attempting to milk the interstate water dispute to its electoral advantage.
Ahead of the elections in Karnataka in 2018, the then Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar wrote to the southern state’s BJP leader BS Yediyurappa stating that the government “would not oppose” Karnataka’s demand for drinking water, an assurance that was contrary to the state’s stance before the tribunal.
The letter was flaunted by Yediyurappa during the election campaign in a bid to drum up support for the party.