Thursday, January 08, 2015

Maharashtra "strongly opposed" surplus water diversion to Gujarat: Par-Tapi-Narmada river interlinking project

Maharashtra chief minister
By Our Representative
The proposed Par-Tapi-Narmada river interlinking project, aimed at diverting “surplus” waters from parts of west flowing rivers like Par, Nar, Ambika and Auranga basins in Maharashtra, is all set to become a major cause of conflict between Gujarat and Maharashtra. Maharashtra has made it clear to Gujarat it does not have “any water to spare”. Quoting official documents, a senior researcher, Parineeta Dandekar, has said that Maharashtra has told Gujarat that waters from these west-flowing basins will need to be utilized by the drought-affected areas." This part of the plans divert "surplus waters" from different sources to  Girna sub-basin of the Tapi basin in Maharashtra, and also transferred into the drought-affected parts of upper Godavari basin in Aurangabad.
Suggesting this was the main reason why Union water resources minister Uma Bharti expressed her desire to meet Devendra Fadnavis, the Maharashtra chief minister, early this week, the researcher said, already, “the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation (TIDC) of Maharashtra has come up with a detailed plan consisting of 22 dams to transfer all the surplus water from the four west-flowing basins into eastern Maharashtra, leaving no water for diversion onto Gujarat. This plan has been formulated, we are told, under instructions from the highest leaders in the state.”
Suggesting that this is clear from the “official document with the SANDRP, which is as latest as January 1, 2015” , Dandekaar said, it is a Master Plan which consisting of of “22 dams, hundreds of kilometers of links, canals, tunnels, sumps and barrages.” She added, Maharashtra is quoting a May 2010 tripartite agreement signed between Gujarat and Maharashtra governments and the Union Ministry of Water Resources for preparation of Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) of Damanganga-Pinjal and Par-Tapi-Narmada Link projects, which said, “The feasibility of utilization of water by state in their territory by lifting water over the western divide will also be examined during preparation of DPR…”
The region to be covered by transferring waters from the two river-link projects, according to the Maharashtra government, will be around 95,760 ha, of which 53,626 ha will be in Nashik, 38,304 ha in Jalgaon and 3,830 ha in Aurangabad district of Godavari Basin. “In addition, there will be 146 MCM reserved for domestic and industrial use”, Dandekar, , who is with South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), said, adding, “Aurangabad is a part of Marathwada which infamous for recurrent drought.”
According to the researcher, already there is “strong opposition in Maharashtra to Par-Tapi Narmada Project and diverting water to Gujarat”, with “rising furor in the political circles of Maharashtra”. Thus, “in the winter assembly, a special meeting was held between Maharashtra Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan and MLAs from the Par, Nar, Ambika and Tapi regions, which include Baglan, Chanwad, Devala, Malegaon, Surgana-Kalvan etc.”
The meeting is said to have worked out a “strategy” ahead of a crucial interstate meeting between officials from Maharashtra and Gujarat on the interlinking projects, scheduled for March 2015. “It has been urgently decided that the Maharashtra government will come up with a master plan for using waters of these rivers for Maharashtra itself rather than diverting it to Gujarat through the Par-Tapi Narmada Link”, the researcher said.
There was a proposal to give a nod to the Par-Tapi Narmada Link project in June 2014 , and the matter was discussed at the National Water Development Agency meeting at Vadodara. However, the researcher said, this has been set aside. “Officials of the Tapi Irrigation Development Corporation from Maharashtra have opposed the move. Locals have organized fasts and protests, and there is tremendous opposition to these plans in the affected regions “, the researcher said.
Meanwhile, the researcher predicted stronger opposition to the project even in Maharashtra, which wants all its water for itself. “The Par-Tapi-Narmada Link Project envisages seven huge reservoirs and a canal, and is more than 400 km long. The Par-Tapi-Narmada Link would submerge nearly 7,500 hectares of land, including 3,572 ha forestland. It would also affect more than 35,000 tribals”, she said, adding, “This tragically looks like a competition for pushing bad projects.”
She concluded, “There is BJP Government in Maharashtra, Gujarat as well as the Centre. Despite this, opposition to Par-Tapi-Narmada Project is simmering across the borders, and the Government of Maharashtra is finding it impossible to support the project. This highlights the latent conflicts that are part of the Interlinking agenda.” All this is happening when “climate change is skewing up water availability and affecting crops, as water-related disasters are increasing, as dams are increasingly seen neither as a solution, nor a respite to these issues.”

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