Water is a kind of supra-political entity: It flows above divisions of religion, country and region. But as we contemplate the coming aridity of planetary proportions— no water to quench thirst, for irrigation, industry, households, entire ecosystems—we interpret water through our finite lens. Climate change is a universal peril. It doesn’t endanger this neighbourhood or community, and leave out that one.
The warmer it gets, lesser the available water, even in the oceans— even if water molecules don’t die. No need to be a rocket scientist to understand this. It is already hitting the quality, distribution, timing and amount of water in circulation, as we lurch from flood to drought in an increasingly vicious cycle. Under these circumstances, keeping a water dispute unattended is not a good idea.
Particularly one over a river—Mahadayi— that’s neither dead nor yet reduced to a sewage canal. Goa and Karnataka are presently locked in what’s almost a war for copyright over its water. Goa sees Mahadayi—or Mandovi, as it is called there—as a lifeline interwoven with its identity. For parched north Karnataka, it’s no less vital. Karnataka’s original demand of 36.55 tmcft, inclusive of 7.56 tmcft for drinking—scaled down by the tribunal to 13.42 tmcft, 5.5 tmcft for drinking—is meant as vital security against what’s now endemic drought.
Successive governments have found it well-nigh impossible to resolve the competitive politics. It’s rather surprising that the Centre has found no time to formally allow Karnataka to launch the Kalasa-Banduri project on the Mahadayi. That has allowed Goa to go into protest mode. Union Minister Prakash Javadekar should exploit the fact that all three governments are run by his party, the BJP, and bring about a quick resolution. And not just hand out placebos.