Water war or political pow-wow?

KCR and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy
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KCR and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy

Highlights

Are interstate problems particularly the issue pertaining to sharing of river waters so serious that they cannot be resolved through talks between the two Telugu States or is there a different agenda behind it? Why are they getting embroiled in water war?

Are interstate problems particularly the issue pertaining to sharing of river waters so serious that they cannot be resolved through talks between the two Telugu States or is there a different agenda behind it? Why are they getting embroiled in water war?

What happened to the initial bonhomie between the two Chief Ministers? What really is intriguing is that on one hand inflow of water has just started into the projects due to early rains in the upper riparian States and still both the States are creating a situation as if they had gone totally dry and are accusing each other of violating the rules. Both now want immediate intervention of the Centre.

When YS Jagan Mohan Reddy became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, the chemistry between the two CMs had left all awestruck. KCR invited Jagan along with his family for lunch at Pragati Bhavan and both the Chief Ministers had marathon discussions and later Jagan and KCR praised each other. Jagan had stated in the Assembly that KCR was a man of great magnanimity. Both declared that all the contentious issues between the two Telugu States, especially water disputes, would be solved across the table.

KCR always claims that it was his initiative of going to Maharashtra and holding talks with his counterpart there led to resolving the contentious issues between the two States and had helped in speedy construction of irrigation projects. He also claimed that none of his predecessors in the undivided Andhra Pradesh ever thought of such friendly moves.

But now KCR, regrets that the AP government had taken a unilateral decision to construct Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Project (RLIP) at a time when Telangana was extending a friendly hand. He said river waters should be utilised for the benefit of farmers in both the States setting aside all the differences and disputes of the past.

"I have taken the initiative by saying there should not be any ego or water basin problems in utilising the water. It is very painful that despite this, the AP government declared a new scheme without even consulting with the Telangana state to lift water from Srisailam project unilaterally. This dented the very spirit with which water should be utilised by the two States with cooperation," he said.

This triggered a war of words between the two States and ministers of both the States started indulging in verbal attack against each other and made certain comments against the former CM of united AP Y S Rajasekhara Reddy . In retaliation, AP Minister Botsa Satyanarayana said that if Telangana leaders make such remarks for political gain, then people will teach them a lesson.

"We don't have the intention to use vulgar language like Telangana ministers," the minister said. According to him the government has a clear stance on the issue of water controversy. (He did not spell out what the strategy was but his statement appeared to be loaded with political connotations.) The AP Water Resources Minister Anil Kumar Yadav too expressed his anger over the TS ministers for making certain remarks against YSR.

Unfortunately, the tone and tenor of both sides is certainly provoking. Both claim that they are most disciplined and were utilising the water as per the allocations made by the Krishna River Management Board. If that is the case why this Kolaveri?

AP accuses Telangana Government of taking unilateral decision to go in for hydel power generation at Srisailam, Pulichintala and Nagarjuna Sagar.

TS government alleges that AP was constructing illegal project on River Krishna and that would adversely affect the interests of the state. Both want Centre's intervention which everyone knows how it would be.

The Centre which could have spoken to the two Chief Ministers and facilitated visit of team from KRMB to visit Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation project site did not do so. The KRMB has now taken a stand that AP government was not cooperating and sought the help of Ministry of Home Affairs to provide central forces to visit the RLIP.

All this leaves the common man in state of confusion as to what exactly is happening and what the controversy was about? Well it is difficult to say except that both the States blame each other for using excess water from River Krishna. Interestingly, we are into a system of governance where the officials reel out figures claiming that the respective States had not violated any rule. But still the controversy continues.

Officials of Telangana Government claim that the state was utilising 299 TMC of water allocated temporarily after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. Their argument is that though the new state is entitled to utilize more than 299 TMC of water it was showing maximum restraint and was abiding by the instructions of the KRMB

They say, the available water levels at Nagarjuna Sagar, Srisailam, Jurala and Pulichintala was enough to generate power and there was no need to seek permission of KRMB for hydel power generation. They claim AP was raising hue and cry only to deprive TS of its share of water.

Telangana officials say that AP cannot utilise more than 599 TMC of water per year but so far it has utilised about 620 TMC of water while TS could not utilise more than 50 TMC as it does not have enough sources to store water. Hence, they feel that the objections being raised by AP in regard to the ongoing irrigation projects on river Krishna does not hold any ground. Moreover, the ongoing projects were sanctioned in undivided Andhra Pradesh and now they have been redesigned to suit the needs of the new state. TS also alleges that KRMB was being partial to Andhra Pradesh.

AP officials say that they are at a disadvantageous situation since it happens to be the lower riparian state. They alleged the TS in addition to excess drawing of water from Krishna was illegally constructing - Palamuru Ranga Reddy Lift Irrigation Scheme, Dindi Lift Irrigation Scheme, Bhaktha Ramadas Lift Irrigation Scheme, Water Grid Project taken up under Mission Bhagiratha, Thummilla Lift Irrigation Scheme, enhancing the scope of the Mahatma Gandhi Kalwakurthi Lift Irrigation Scheme (MGKLIS) and the Nettempadu Lift Irrigation Scheme on River Krishna and nine projects on River Godavari.

The AP Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy shot off a letter to Prime Minister alleging that TS was resorting to excess drawal of water from Srisailam, Pulichintala and Nagarjuna Sagar for power generation and this had upset the water release schedule of AP as water released from Pulichintala by TS had reached Prakasam barrage much ahead of schedule and had gone waste into the sea as the Krishna delta farmers were yet to start agriculture operations. They said because of insistence of TS to go in for hydel power generation, AP had lost 3.07 TMC of water as it had to be released into Bay of Bengal.

Amid this growing water row, opposition parties like the BJP and the Congress in Telangana and TDP and Congress in AP believe that these are diversionary tactics by both KCR and Jagan. They say both KCR and Jagan are hand-in-glove on the matter and are hoodwinking the public.

Interestingly, Jagan's sister YS Sharmila, who is set to launch her political party in Telangana initially maintained silence but later said that as daughter-in-law of Telangana she would fight for the rights of the TS. This led to farmers from Rayalaseema landing at her Lotus Pond house and stage a dharna.

The way accusations and counter accusations are getting shriller, it gives credence to the opposition charge that all this high drama has strong political overtones. Probably, KCR feels that if the tempo water dispute between the two States can be systematically raised, it can rekindle the sentiment 'Neellu' (water) which was one of the main points on which the agitation for separate State was fought and this could help the TRS not just in the by election for Huzurabad but also in the next general election.

There is strong speculation in political circles that since the strategy of KCR to advance general election in 2019 worked wonders for the party, he may prefer the same strategy in 2023 and all this was a warming up exercise for the main battle of

ballot.

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