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Brijesh Kumar Tribunal shocker!

Brijesh Kumar Tribunal shocker!
Highlights

Brijesh Kumar Tribunal Shocker!, Krishna Water Tribunal, Brijesh Tribunal Allows Raising Almatti Dam Height. The main reason for the failure of...

  • We were not alert
  • Failed to see writing on the wall
  • Did not put up the best team to argue before Tribunal
  • Politicians did not bother enough to protect our interests
  • We are used to consuming surplus water as a right
  • We have been wasting water
  • We are not friendly with our neighbouring States
  • We are seen as litigant, greedy and arrogant
  • We lack unity of purpose
  • We were consumed by internal bickerings
  • We were unable to bestow undivided attention on this vital issue
The main reason for the failure of getting legitimate share in Krishna water in the final award given by the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal is lack of unity among the people of AP and the continuing disarray. There is no point in blaming anyone outside. It was only after Y S Rajasekhara Reddy took over as Chief Minister that projects based on surplus water were pursued aggressively.
Who did the Telugus in? Who is to be blamed for the perceived injustice done to Andhra Pradesh in the final Award announced by Justice Brijesh Kumar Tribunal on Friday? Is the chairman or any of the other two former judges who are members of the Tribunal prejudiced against AP? Should we indulge in introspection and see if our own attitude, style and efforts are responsible for the poor results? Is it the case of aspiring for something which is not our due? Or is it the sum total of all these attributes?
When the first Krishna Water disputes Tribunal was appointed under the chairmanship of Justice R S Bachawat on April 10, 1969, there were not many irrigation projects on River Krishna in Maharashtra and Karnataka. The first Tribunal concluded that 75 per cent of the flows were assured water. It tried to distribute the assured water among the three riparian States of Maharashtra, Karnataka and AP. It calculated that an amount of 2,060 tmc ft of virgin flow would be available in a year on an average. The allocation of water is based on the projects that are in place or were in the process of being constructed as on September 19, 1960. All the projects which got approvals from different agencies like forest, environment and CWC were included in this list.
After distributing the assured waters among the project some water was left. The total Krishna water allotted to AP was 800 tmc ft while Karnataka got 700 tmc ft and Maharashtra 560 tmc ft.
The Bachawat Tribunal proposed two Schemes. Scheme-A was meant only for sharing of assured water. Scheme-B was intended to share the available water, whatever the flows. For instance, if the flows are as expected, the riparian State can use the water according to the allocations made. In case the flows are not on the expected level and there is deficit, even the deficit should be distributed based on a ratio to be fixed by the Tribunal. Krishna Valley Authority, to be established by the Tribunal, would monitor the flows of water.
Scheme-B would come into force only if all the three States agree. Both Maharashtra and Karnataka agreed. But AP did not. It said it would take whatever the deficit. AP government was confident that the two upper riparian States did not have enough projects to make use of all the allocated assured water. Even if there was shortfall, the flows into AP would not fall short. Moreover, it can use all the surplus water.
Scheme-B was shelved and only Scheme-A was implemented.
Krishna catchment area in AP is smaller compared to that in Maharashtra and Karnataka. The river born in Maharashtra travels through the three States for 870 miles before merging into the Bay of Bengal. Most of the tributaries that take water to the River are in Karnataka. AP has only Musi, Paleru, Muneru and Bhima. The complaint of the upper riparian States is that AP contributes less and utilises the maximum of Krishna water.
Bachawat Tribunal gave its final Award and the Gazette was notified in 1976. It allowed Srisailam and Nagarjuna Projects to have carryover storage of surplus water. AP has liberty to utilize surplus water without acquiring legal right. But the final verdict of Bachawat Tribunal made it very clear that the next Tribunal would distribute the surplus water.
There were 24 years for the Award to expire. Had the governments in AP shown the required dynamism and went for more projects, they would have become fait accompli. The Brijesh Kumar Tribunal would have been obliged to allocate water for the existing projects.
TDP founder NT Ramarao was the first Chief Minister to think of constructing new projects utilising surplus water. It was he who envisaged Telugu Ganga project to carry drinking water to Chennai, the city which gave him life as an actor. The first plan was to take water through pipes from Siddeswaram project to be constructed. But the people of Rayalaseema were up in arms. NTR switched over to a canal, taking water from Srisailam through Seema to Chennai. He persuaded the two States to contribute 5 tmc ft each for supply of drinking water to Madras.
But other projects proposed during the NTR rule were all based on surplus water. Chandrababu Naidu who succeeded NTR did allocate meager sums to projects like Galeru-Nagari, Handri-Niiva, Kalvakurti, Nettempadu etc. No tangible work was done during Naidu’s tenure.
It was only after Y S Rajasekhara Reddy took over as Chief Minister that projects based on surplus water were very aggressively pursued. He did not wait for any permissions from the Union government or other agencies. He allocated funds and started construction of the projects. He told his friends that he had only a five-year term as the Chief Minister and would launch as many projects as possible so that others who succeed him would be able to complete them.
Whatever may be the veracity of the allegations about corruption and mobilization advances, it can be stated without any fear of contradiction that YSR’s ‘Jalayagnam’ was a great step forward to utilise surplus Krishna water to the maximum extent. Both Maharashtra and Karnataka moved courts of law, objecting to the slew of projects proposed by the YSR government. The AP government also went to Supreme Court to complain against the Bhabhali project in Maharashtra and Almatti Dam in Karnataka.
Since even surplus water has been distributed by the latest Award, AP has to be selective in going for new projects. Even the existing projects may find it difficult to get adequate water in the wake of the Tribunal’s final award. YSR started with 24 projects, which were estimated to cost Rs 65,000 crore. The number of projects has gone up to 84 and the layout to about Rs 2 lakh crore.
There is a need for a relook into the whole gamut of irrigation projects. Whichever way the Telangana question is solved, the travails for Krishna water will continue, and there will be a need to be friendly with neighboring States in order to settle the issues amicably. River water wars, as feared by Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, have to be averted at any cost. For that, the Telugu-speaking people have to be more mature and responsible to sit together and evolve a common strategy, instead of quarreling endlessly among themselves.
The main reason for the failure of getting legitimate share in Krishna water in the final award given by Brijesh Kumar Tribunal is lack of unity among the people of AP and the continuing disarray. There is no point in blaming anyone outside. Nobody did us in. We did it ourselves.
- With inputs from: R Vidya Sagar Rao, Retd. Chief Engineer
Injustice to Nalgonda, Mahabubnagar?
AP’s request of 10 tmc ft for Penna Ahobilam Balancing Reservoir is rejected by the Tribunal as it is outside the Krishna basin.
Almatti Dam has got allocations as it is to irrigate drought-prone areas in Karnataka. AP, too, could have sought water on this premise, taking up fluoride-hit Nalgonda and drought-prone Mahabubnagar districts, which are very much in the Krishna basis. Instead, it sought 10 tmc ft for Penna Ahobilam reservoir which is outside the basin. We lost the case
Besides following the tradition established by Bachawat Tribunal, the second Tribunal headed by Justice Brijesh Kumar has made some allocations, going out of the way to help drought-prone areas.
The Almatti Dam – about which the people of AP are acutely concerned and to which the Tribunal has allocated 140 tmc ft – is meant to irrigate drought-prone areas in Karnataka. Upper Tunga, Upper Bhadra, Singatalur are the other projects which were allocated about 40 tmc ft of water on the same consideration.
But AP’s request to give just 10 tmc ft to Penna Ahobilam Balancing Reservoir was rejected by the Tribunal for the simple reason that it was outside the Krishna Basin. Had AP asked water for Nettempadu, Kalwakurti and Srisailam Left Bank Canal (SLBC), since they are in adversely-affected districts of Mahabubnagar and Nalgonda, the Tribunal would, perhaps, have obliged.
Both the districts are in Krishna Basin. While Mahabubnagar is drought-prone, Nalgonda is afflicted with fluoride water. This is the argument put forward by the Telangana protagonists.
In fact, there was an uproar in the Assembly when K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR) supported the proposal to increase the height of Almatti Dam. His argument was that if the height of the dam was high, the future Telangana government could convince the Tribunal for allocations to drought-prone Mahabubnagar and fluoride-affected Nalgonda district.
Telangana would request the Karnataka government to store its share of Krishna Water in Almatti reservoir and release it whenever required and the water could be taken from Almatti to Nalgonda with the help of gravitational force. There was a point in this argument, but the MLAs from Seemandhra, who feared that the Krishna delta would become a desert if the height of Almatti Dam was allowed to be increased, pounced on KCR for supporting the rival State.
Balagopal’s plea ignored
Civil rights activist Dr K Balagopal was a votary of internal redistribution of Krishna River water. He argued that after the Bachawat Tribunal awarded 800 tmc ft of water to AP, the government of AP should consider the requirements of all the regions and redistribute the water. Prof Jayashankar was also in agreement with him. Both of them were even believed to have met Y S Rajasekhara Reddy a couple of times to discuss the redistribution of Krishna water. YSR reportedly told them to forget about Krishna water which would go to Rayalaseema. He was said to have advised them to think of Godawari water, instead.
We can’t even argue it out
It is very important to have eminent lawyers to argue before a river water tribunal. Karnataka had engaged outstanding jurist Nariman to protect its interests at Brijesh Kumar Tribunal. Nariman had also appeared before Bachawat Tribunal. His stature would attract the attention of the members of the Tribunal who are former judges.
Maharashtra had put up another famous lawyer.
The person who represented Andhra Pradesh before the Tribunal does not enjoy the same level of reputation, and as a result could not attract the attention of the members of the Tribunal. Only now, when the case was before the Supreme Court did AP government opt for Harish Salve, a fairly successful and resourceful lawyer.
Another shortcoming with our legal counsels is that they consult only the working engineer-in-chief. They don’t spend time with retired engineers who are experts in the field. Secretaries to government also take orders from political bosses, and never try to interact with the experts in the field. There are a number of engineers with illustrious careers and with international experience. We have Hanumantha Rao, Vidyasagara Rao, Veeraiah, Dharma Rao, Subbarao and other irrigation experts who can guide our counsels and the experts who are assisting them.
Politicians like Vadde Sobhanadreswara Rao also feel neglected as they were seldom consulted either by the minister in charge of irrigation or the engineers and legal experts who represent the State at the Tribunal and argue in the apex court.
To add to this, there was lack of respect for our own experts. We have regional problems.
Even an expert who is known worldwide for his contribution to the development of irrigation facilities in developing countries in Asia and Africa is not seen and respected as a person above regional bias. This has been the bane afflicting the State. Although there are regional problems in Tamil Nadu, they come together when it comes to fighting against other States. In AP, there has been no attempt to prepare a comprehensive plan for all the three regions keeping the interests of each region in mind.
Are we greedy?
Political leaders from Andhra Pradesh are largely perceived as arrogant and litigant by the Ministerial circles and the irrigation specialists in nation’s capital. Feeble arguments by our leaders on Almatti etc or surplus waters are overridden. We couldn’t counter arguments that AP farmers are overutilsing the water, with the result that Karnataka flatly rejected our desperate requests for 5 tmc ft. AP’s contention that late release of water would turn Krishna delta into a desert has fallen on deaf ears.
The Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal is the highest authority whose decisions are binding on all the riparian States. Even the Supreme Court would not go into the nitty-gritty of the allocations of water. It would only examine if the Constitutional provisions are followed.
The officials and politicians of Andhra Pradesh do not carry very good impression in Delhi – either in the Ministerial circles or among the irrigation specialists. People of AP are described as greedy, ambitious, hyperactive and irresponsible. These are the adjectives freely used by the lawyers representing Maharashtra and Karnataka either before the Tribunal or at the Supreme Court.
They cite the case of Paragodu project which is a small project meant for drinking water. When Chandrababu Naidu was the Chief Minister, he took the case to NDA Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. He complained against a Sardarji, who was a member of Central Water Commission who had visited the State to inspect the project. He made some derogative remarks against the State government for bringing pressure on the Union government on a trivial issue. Atalji persuaded Naidu to cool down, and asked the Minister concerned to deal with the official.
We are not considered to be very friendly with our neighbors. We are seen as litigant and arrogant. The experts from Karnataka and Maharashtra allege that AP has been using the surplus water at will and the people of Krishna delta are used to consuming water excessively. This criticism is there against the farmers who use the water from Srisailam and Nagarjuna Sagar Dam.
That was the reason why when our people were starving of water, the Karnataka government did not agree to release 5 tmc ft of water despite repeated requests by AP government. All the attributes that are there for India about its relationship with its neighbor are applicable to AP, they say. We tend to speak from a higher pedestal and in a righteous way, and then drag things to court at the slightest provocation.
Brijesh Kumar Tribunal asked the AP representatives to explain their objections to sharing of surplus water. Why are asking for more surplus water? The water we have been using under the right and the left canals of Nagarjuna Sagar project and Krishan delta was measured to be more than 150 tmc ft.
To a question on the height of Almatti Dam and how it was going to affect the interest of AP, our representatives were reportedly unable to give a convincing reply.
The argument is that if the height of Almatti dam is allowed to be increased and if more water is stored there, the fields in the Krishna delta would be deprived of water supply in time for the crops. The problem with the farmers of Krishna basin is that they have to sow, grow and harvest their crops before the cyclone season that sets in November.
If the water is not released in June-July period in time for the crops, the Krishna delta farmers would be starved of irrigated water. When our representatives bemoan that the delta would become a desert, the members would say you people have been misusing and overutilising the surplus water. They also assure that the water releases from the upper riparian State of Karnataka would not be delayed since there would be Krishna Water Decision Implementation Board which would be an independent authority on which no riparian State government would have any powers.
Deve Gowda super active!
Among the Maharashtra and the Karnataka Chief Ministers, Deve Gowda was very aggressive in getting projects constructed on River Krishna. When Gowda was the Prime Minister, the then AP Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu persuaded him not to increase the height of Almatti Dam. The Maharashtra CMs also were very active in this connection. They were anxious to utilise the assured as well as the surplus waters.
What is surplus water?
The Brijesh Kumar Tribunal has reduced the dependability criteria to measure assured water from 75 per cent (as determined by Bachawat) to 65 per cent. The assured flow is determined based on the flows recorded from bankment for 75 out of a hundred years and then calculated on average flows. Surplus water means extra water over and above assured water.
Maharashtra and Karnataka wanted the Bachawat Tribunal to distribute surplus water also. But, the Tribunal said the job would be taken up by the next Tribunal.
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