Water disputes: Centre’s Move Delaying Further?

Is the BJP trying to convert the water disputes between the two Telugu states to its advantage? If not, why is the Union Minister for Water Resources hurriedly organising the Apex Council meet even during the Covid season? Though the meeting is being held online and it confirms to the quarantine standards of social distancing, why this tearing hurry and why are the Central Government and the BJP insisting on a meeting in such haste? The analysts strongly feel that the Central Government is doing whatever the BJP in Telangana does and that there is politics in this.

The Centre is organising the Apex Council on August 25 to discuss the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme, which is meant to utilise the flood water from Krishna river. Initially, the meet was scheduled to be held on August 5, but had to be deferred in view of Telangana Chief Minister’s request. Without consulting the two states, the Centre has decided to hold the meeting on August 25 and has informed both the states in writing.

Inter-state riparian disputes are not new. They have been going on for decades. The disputes have only exacerbated for the past four decades in view of the paucity of water in Krishna river. The allocations as decided by Brajesh Kumar Tribunal are yet to be implemented. In the meanwhile, the state of Andhra Pradesh was divided into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Both the states are ruled by regional parties. The national parties are not even a bleep on the political radar and there are no signs of them improving their position anytime soon.

Now, it is clear that the BJP and the Central Government are determined to stall the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme. It also reliably learnt that Union Minister has spoken to the representatives from AP. Sources also reveal that the Centre is trying to re-scrutinise and reverse the verdict of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that said that the RLIS is not a new one. The question is – Why the BJP is so obstinate and why is it so wary of the importance that the two Telugu states are according to irrigation.

The two governments are according utmost importance to irrigation and is building projects like Kaleshwaram and Polavaram on Godavari and Palamur-Rangareddy, Dindi, Udayasamudram, SLBC in Telangana and Handri Neeva, Galeru-Nagari in AP on Krishna river. There would be no scarcity even if all the under-construction projects are completed. In fact, a lot of flood water is flowing waste into the sea. Last year, as much as 600 tmc have flown waste into the sea. Even assuming that there would be some shortfall in Krishna, the water can always be diverted from Godavari into Krishna. Once Polavaram is completed and the Krishna-Penna river link is established, Nagarjunasagar’s dependence on Krishna river would be greatly reduced and both the Telugu governments have to unveil a concrete plan for the optimal utilisation of the water from Srisailam. The water from Srisailam can be used for drinking and irrigational purposes instead of power generation.

These projects are very important as the cultivation in most parts of Mahabubnagar, Rangareddy and Nalgonda of Telangana and Rayalaseema in Andhra Pradesh is essentially rain-fed. Provision of drinking and irrigation facility is of critical importance and completion of the above-mentioned projects on a war-footing assumes great significance.

Telangana’s Krishna river-based projects stand neglected

The Krishna-based projects of Telangana are progressing at snail’s pace. While the Telangana CM has created a history of sorts by completing Kaleshwaram project within three years and by bringing Godavari waters close to Hyderabad by pumping water. Thus, he has achieved what has hitherto been thought of as impossible! However, there is a strong feeling that he has not been as focused on the projects in South Telangana as he has been on North Telangana. It is important to complete the projects aimed at providing irrigation facility in South Telangana and utilise the Krishna water to the maximum. Similarly, the flood water, allotted and the unallocated water could be used to irrigate the Rayalaseema region of AP. Though some projects have been completed and yet more are under various stages of completion, AP is unable to optimally use its share of water.

Pothireddypadu height affects AP’s water usage

Though AP is entitled to use 114 TMC from Srisailam reservoir through Pothireddypadu, except for the last two years, the state could not use even a half of the allocated water. Rayalaseema is entitled to use a total of 114 TMC, including water from Telugu Ganga (29 TMC), SRBC (19 TMC), Galeru-Nagari-GNSS (39 TMC), Drinking water supply to Chennai (15 TMC), TBPHLC (10 TMC), drinking water and evaporation losses (3 TMC). In 2004-05, a total of 56.51 TMC could be used. In 2005-06, 78.49 TMC was used. In 2007-08, 2009-10, 48.05 TMC and 60.14 TMC respectively were used . In 2009-10, Krishna river witnessed unprecedented floods. Yet, the water utilisation was minimal. In 2012-13, only 22.40 TMC was used. In 2014-15, as much as 59.17 TMC was used. In 2015-16, a paltry 0.95 TMC, the lowest till date, used up. In the subsequent four years, .44, 91.70,115.40, 179.30 respectively were utilised.

To ensure the optimal utilisation of Krishna water, the AP Government has proposed Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme. The expert committee constituted by the NGT has clarified that the Rayalaseema LIS is an old project. In fact, the project does not have any new command area to irrigate. It only enables the allocated water to flow into the SRMC. For this, a pumping centre would be constructed near the Sangameshwara and the water would be released into the SRMC.

Misinformation campaign is on

Unfortunately, opposition parties in AP such as the TDP, the Congress and the Left are maintaining a studious silence on the issue. They are doing this as they know that if they raise their voice, it will have to be in support of the state government. Even the yellow media is toeing the same line. So, there is no debate about the Rayalaseema LIS in AP. On its part, even the AP Government has not measured up to the expectation when it came to educating the masses about the benefits of the project. None of the leaders have tried to set the record straight. In Telangana, however, there is a growing feeling that the AP is doing injustice to Telangana through Rayalaseema LIS.

BJP game-plan

In Telangana, both the Congress and the BJP have been accusing the Telangana government of colluding with the AP Government on Rayalaseema LIS. The Congress has approached the Telangana High Court. The Telangana Government had approached the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, using the NGT nod for taking up tendering process, the AP Government has already completed the tendering for the project. Meanwhile, prodded by the local BJP leaders, the Central Government has stepped in. The BJP in AP also changed tack and began attacking the AP Government. In Telangana, the BJP is already on a warpath with the State Government. On every issue, the Telangana BJP is lodging a complaint and the Central Government is sending notices to the Telangana Government. There is a new-found aggression on the part of the Central Government on projects like Kaleshwaram, Rayalaseema LIS etc. There are allegations that the BJP is trying to follow the RSS dictum of One Nation even in irrigation sector and is trying to exploit the differences that exist between the governments of Telangana and AP.

Even irrigation experts feel that the Centre wants to control both the states. As part of this, the Centre has asked the two state governments to stop work till they submit DPRs for Kaleshwaram IIIrd TMC, Palamuru-Rangareddy, Dindi, Udayasamudram and Rayalaseema LIS. The Centre has already directed the AP Government not to go ahead with the Rayalaseema LIS. They suspect that the BJP wants to help Telangana so that it can emerge stronger there. Analysts say that the BJP, which has little future in AP, is now focusing on Telangana and wants to pip past the Congress to challenge the TRS. It wants to show the people of Telangana that it cares more for the state than the TRS.

If this kind of politicking goes on, both the Telugu states would be put to great loss. The Krishna water will flow waste into the sea and the South Telangana and Rayalaseema will remain perpetually drought-hit.