Supreme Court directs Centre to constitute tribunal on Mahanadi river water dispute within a month

The court heard the plea of Odisha Government for the constitution of a tribunal to resolve the inter-State Mahanadi river water sharing dispute with Chhattisgarh.

Published: 23rd January 2018 10:17 PM  |   Last Updated: 23rd January 2018 10:17 PM   |  A+A-

Mahanadi river. (File photo | PTI)

By Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Centre to constitute Tribunal within a month to resolve Mahanadi water sharing dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

A bench of Justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao rejected the arguments of the Central Government that there was no need for an exclusive tribunal to resolve the Mahanadi river water sharing dispute
and directed the Centre to begin the process for constitution of a tribunal soon within a month.

During the hearing today, the court heard the plea of Odisha Government for the constitution of a tribunal to resolve the inter-State Mahanadi river water sharing dispute with Chhattisgarh.  In December, the Court had pulled up the Centre for not constituting a tribunal after receiving the application from the State
Government within the stipulated time of one year.

In an affidavit filed last year, Centre had opposed the constitution of the tribunal but the court directed for a tribunal as per 4(1) of the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956). In its plea, Odisha government had alleged that the Chhattisgarh government was violating a 1983 treaty on Mahanadi waters by constructing unauthorised dams and barrages for the last couple of years.

The Supreme Court's direction has come at a time when the Centre has consistently overlooked the demand of the state government to constitute the tribunal for the last one year.  Welcoming the apex
court's direction, Chief minister Naveen Patnaik said this will go a long way in protecting the interests of the people of Odisha, especially the farmers. “Today our stand has been vindicated,” he said.

In the face of consistent demand from Odisha for the formation of a tribunal to resolve the river water dispute, counsel of the Chhattisgarh government argued during the hearing of the case today for the formation of a joint control board based on an agreement signed between Odisha and erstwhile Madhya Pradesh in 1983.

The Odisha government maintained during the hearing that a tribunal should be formed as a negotiation between the two states have failed to resolve the dispute. In fact, the Centre had announced in both
houses of Parliament about its decision to form a tribunal to resolve the dispute as negotiation has failed.

Negotiations at the level of chief ministers attended by Naveen Patnaik, Raman Singh and then union water resources minister Uma Bharti on September 17, 2016, and meeting between the chief secretaries
before that had failed to bring out any solution.

However, despite assurances in both houses, Centre again advised the Odisha government to negotiate with Chhattisgarh to resolve the dispute as cases referred to tribunals takes decades for resolution.
Union minister for water resources Nitin Gadkari while replying to a question in Lok Sabha in the first week of January advised the Odisha government to come back to the negotiation table to resolve the issue. He also wrote a letter to chief minister Naveen Patnaik in this regard. However, the ruling BJD and Odisha government have rejected Gadkari's suggestion in this regard.

The state government had filed an application with the Centre on November 19, 2016, under section 3 of the Inter State Water Disputes Act, 1956 to form a tribunal after exhausting other options as a part of which chief minister Naveen Patnaik wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure that Chhattisgarh stopped all construction of barrages and dams on Mahanadi river.

The Odisha government also filed an original suit in the Supreme Court under article 131 of the constitution on December 2, 2016, seeking an injunction on Chhattisgarh from continuing with
construction of ongoing projects and taking up new projects.

Official sources maintained that while Chhattisgarh has constructed six barrages over Mahanadi, it has plans to construct 13 more dams and barrages and dams in future.

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