BELAGAVI: What was almost a done deal between Karnataka and Maharashtra on releasing Krishna water, now seems to be stuck in the quagmire of politics with the neighbouring state insisting on a reciprocal arrangement.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who had met his own party leaders from Karnataka on May 3, had promised to release 2 tmcft of the 4 tmcft of water sought on humanitarian grounds. But he has now reneged on his word under pressure from his legislators and allies saying that the water available in Koyna dam will be required for local needs.
On Saturday, Karnataka Water Resources Minister D K Shivakumar revealed in Hubballi that Maharashtra is unwilling to release water until an agreement is signed by both states on sharing the 4 tmcft of water. The change in stance has flummoxed the Karnataka government.
While the Congress may not want the BJP to claim credit for striking the deal, it will not want to upset locals especially since the bypolls to Kundagol and Chincholi are just round the corner.
When Siddaramaiah was Karnataka Chief Minister, Maharashtra had released 2 tmcft of water to Karnataka after a delegation of BJP leaders, led by former
Union minister H N Ananth Kumar and Umesh Katti, had prevailed upon Fadnavis. But just to prevent BJP from taking any credit for it, the state government did not release of 2 tmcft of water to Maharashtra in return. Sources in the Maharashtra political circles said this could also be a reason for Maharashtra not releasing water this time.
During his campaign visit for the Kundagol bypoll on Saturday, Shivakumar made it clear that Maharashtra was unwilling to release water to Karnataka despite repeated appeals.
“The Maharashtra government says it will not release water until we sign an agreement with it. We have asked them to release water first, assuring that the agreement will be signed later,’’ he added.
Maharashtra’s changed stance ostensibly is due to pressure from local legislators.
Shambhuraj Desai, Shiv Sena Member of Legislative Aseembly from Patan constituency in Maharashtra, shot off a letter to Fadnavis stating, “Water available currently in Koyna dam is lesser compared to the corresponding period last year. It was 40 tmcft last year, but currently, the dam has about 34 tmcft. As the state needs water for its people, besides 17 tmcft for power generation, it is not advisable to release water to Karnataka.’’ Several other legislators too have opposed it, sources said.
The Karnataka government also seems to be dragging its feet.
“The state government sent a letter recently to Maharashtra Water Resources Department seeking release of water. If the government is serious about it, it should send a delegation of officials and leaders immediately to expedite the process. Otherwise, the drought situation in the state will only worsen,’’ said social activist Ashok Chandargi.
For many years until 2016, Karnataka was paying `3 crore for every tmcft of water released.
Maharashtra would release 4 tmcft of water in phases based on the drought situation and water crisis in Karnataka. Since 2017, Maharashtra has been insisting that Karnataka release 4 tmcft of water back to it from Almatti reservoir and stopped charging for the water released.
The Karnataka government did assure Maharashtra of releasing the water back to it, but both sides did not take any concrete steps to have an MoU on water sharing, sources said.
Former Water Resources Minister Basavaraj Bommai says the present state government is not serious about tackling drought, which has affected a large population in North Karnataka in particular. “The Water Resources Minister should sit with his Maharashtra counterpart if he is really serious about tackling drought and find a lasting solution,” he added.