Water conflict - Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal - Frontline

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Author: K. Venkateshwarlu

Andhra Pradesh feels the second Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal's verdict has dealt a blow to the State.

The Ongole branch canal under the Nagarjunasagar project command area near Chimakurthi in Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh. The Krishna water flow may not be the same in future in view of the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-II award. Photo: Kommuri Srinivas

The long-awaited verdict of the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-II allocating the “highest share” of the waters of the Krishna river to Andhra Pradesh has left the State shattered.

The body blow is perceived to be so comprehensive that the State government is struggling to come up with a cogent response even after several days. Except for announcing that it will go in appeal for a review and seek clarifications to “erroneous assessments”, there has been no official word on the order given by the three-member tribunal headed by Justice Brijesh Kumar. The official line is that it was merely a draft report and the government will leave no stone unturned in safeguarding the interests of the State.

Preferring to adopt a cautious approach, it has constituted a 14-member team of technical and legal experts to peruse the tribunal order. Despite inviting flak for putting up a weak argument before the tribunal, the government seems to be in no mood to revamp its legal team. It has said that it will hold an all-party meeting before formulating its view.

Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy has been holding consultations with officials and experts to weigh the options before the government. The verdict is widely perceived to be harmful to the interests of the State though on paper the tribunal has allotted 1,001 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) to Andhra Pradesh. That is 190 tmcft more than what was allocated by the Bachawat Tribunal Award earlier.

Experts and political parties describe this gain as notional as it is worked out on the basis of an erroneous calculation of yearly river yields. They fault the tribunal's assessment of yields on the basis of 65 per cent dependability (sure yearly river water yields in 65 of 100 years) spread over a “shorter period” of the last 47 years.

In contrast, they argue, the Bachawat Tribunal's calculations were on the basis of yields of a longer period of 78 years at 75 per cent dependability. In fact, the State had favored reckoning the yields for 112 years at 75 per cent dependability “as is universally accepted”, but KWDT-II rejected the argument.

Experts also feel that KWDT-II did not factor in the fact that Andhra Pradesh has received the full complement of its share of 811 tmcft only in a small number of years during the last five decades, sometimes just once in a decade. For the same reason of “lower and far between yields”, they question the tribunal's assessment of 448 tmcft surplus waters and the allocation of the same to three States – 190 tmcft to Andhra Pradesh, 177 tmcft to Karnataka and 81 tmcft to Maharashtra.

They argue that by going ahead with the distribution of the surplus waters, KWDT-II has taken away the liberty given by KWDT-I to Andhra Pradesh to use it, recognising its vulnerability as the lower riparian State. A lower riparian State is always at the mercy of the upper riparian States as it receives only water released by them.

‘Projects in peril'

The snatching away of this entitlement at one stroke apparently puts in peril seven ongoing projects built using 227 tmcft at a cost of Rs.32,000 crore with an ayacut of 24 lakh acres (one acre is 0.4 hectares). These include the Srisailam Left Branch Canal (30 tmcft), the Kalwakurthy (25 tmcft), the Nettampadu (22 tmcft), the Hundri Neeva (40 tmcft), the Galeru-Nagari (38 tmcft), the Valigonda (43 tmcft) and the Telugu Ganga (29 tmcft) projects – all located in some of the most drought-affected districts of the State.

Against this requirement of 227 tmcft, the tribunal has allocated 190 tmcft, leaving a question mark over the remaining water for the ongoing as well as future projects planned under “Jalayagnam”, a dream scheme of former Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. The argument is that the State has lost the opportunity to use exclusively surplus water whenever it was available.

While many experts say such allocation of unsure surplus water is improper, R. Vidyasagara Rao, former Chief Engineer, Central Water Commission, feels this will benefit the State as it can now claim these projects to be based on an assured supply of 190 tmcft. This would ensure easy permission from the CWC and funds from Planning Commission. But others do not buy this argument.

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