Hyderabad: With both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana sticking to their stand over sharing of river waters, no end appears in sight to the water war between the two Telugu states.
The walkout of Telangana from the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) meeting on September 1 indicates that both states are not ready to yield and the dispute may get further complicated in the coming days.
Though Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat exuded confidence last month that the tension between the Telugu states will ease, the outcome of the KRMB meeting suggests that the row may hot up further.
Telangana staged the walkout after KRMB refused to concede its plea to be allowed to generate power at Srisailam hydel station.
Heated arguments between the officials of the two states were seen at the board meeting presided over by M.P. Singh.
Defending the power generation, Telangana’s Special Chief Secretary of Irrigation Rajat Kumar argued that this is being done only to evacuate water from the reservoir to meet the state’s irrigation and drinking water requirements from Nagarjuna Sagar downstream. The water was anyway getting stored at Nagarjuna Sagar and also meeting the needs of the Krishna delta system.
The officials also told KRMB that there was no other way for Telangana to meet its large requirement of power for its lift irrigation schemes. He pointed out that Telangana was largely dependent on its lift irrigation because geographically it was on a higher plateau and the rivers flowed at a lower level.
Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, wanted KRMB to take steps to implement its orders directing Telangana to stop power generation.
KRMB told Telangana that power generation at Srisailam would be allowed only after meeting the water requirements for irrigation and drinking water purposes in the Krishna basin. Its chairman mooted a separate meeting to discuss the power generation issue but the Telangana delegation opposed the idea.
Rajat Kumar recalled that the Srisailam project was originally conceived to generate hydel power by the Planning Commission and that 180 tmcft water should be released to Nagarjuna Sagar dam.
After staying away from a couple of meetings of the KRMB, Telangana attended the 14th meeting to put forth strong arguments. Its officials alleged that Andhra Pradesh was raising the issue of power generation to divert attention from the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (LRIS) and other projects being built by it illegally.
Telangana also raised the demand for allocation of Krishna water between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the ratio of 50:50 per cent. The board, however, decided to retain water sharing in the river between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the ratio of 66:34 for the current year like the last six years since bifurcation of undivided Andhra Pradesh.
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana shared 811 tmc ft in the ratio of 512:299 tmc ft. Claiming that the agreement to share water in this ratio was temporarily fixed for 2015-16, Telangana wanted the ratio revised to 50:50 till an award was delivered by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-II.
It argued that the state’s requirement in Krishna increased considerably after the completion of Kalwakurthi, Nettempadu and Bheema lift-irrigation projects.
Andhra Pradesh also wanted the ratio to be revised to 70:30 per cent but the board ruled out any revision.
Telangana also demanded that the unutilised share of the state in its water allocation for a year be carried forward to the next year. The state did not use 45 tmc ft water in 2020-21 and 50 tmc ft in 2019-20. However, KRMB rejected this demand.
Telangana was further irked by the board not accepting its demand that the surplus water over and above 811 tmc ft be accounted for. It alleged that Andhra Pradesh was diverting surplus water during flooding from the Pothireddypadu head regulator and Handri Neeva projects.
The water disputes between the two states have their roots in the pre-Telangana era. Leaders of Telangana region in united Andhra Pradesh had always complained about the injustice meted out to the region in allocation of rivers waters and construction of irrigation projects by successive governments.
In fact injustice in allocation of water resources, funds and jobs was the slogan on which the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) fought for separate statehood to the region.
After Telangana gained statehood in 2014, the disputes over sharing of water intensified as upper riparian state Andhra Pradesh was accused of drawing more water by taking up illegal projects.
The July 16 notification by the Jal Shakti Ministry added a new dimension to the ongoing row. As per the notification, from October 14, the management and control of irrigation projects on the Krishna and Godavari rivers will vest with the respective river management boards and not the state.
A total of 36 projects in the Krishna basin and 71 projects in the Godavari basin will come under the purview of KRMB and Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) respectively.
Telangana has objected to the notification saying the states should have been consulted before issuing the same. Andhra Pradesh has welcomed the notification but with certain riders.
Meanwhile, Telangana’s TRS government has come under flak from opposition parties for what they call its failure to protect the state’s interests. They alleged that the TRS government did not present a strong case in favour of Telangana at the KRMB meeting.
The Congress party has demanded immediate steps to stop Andhra Pradesh from diverting Krishna water outside the basin. They slammed Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao for not taking up the issue during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rao, who was in Delhi to lay the foundation stone for an office of TRS, called on Modi and some central ministers but he did not raise the river water dispute. “CM KCR’s visit to Delhi was for his personal benefit and he did not bother about the state’s interests,” said former minister Nagam Janardhan Reddy.
Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee president A. Revanth Reddy alleged that KCR ignored the water issue and deliberately stayed away from KRMB meetings.
He wanted to know when 299 tmc ft allotment for Telangana was for only one year, why the KCR continue the same usage for the next five years without even demanding a revised allotment.
He also alleged that Andhra Pradesh’s government order for lifting of 3 tmc ft of water every day for the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation project has the full backing of KCR. “After the announcement of the project in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, both KCR and Jagan Mohan Reddy had lunch together at Pragathi Bhavan (official residence of the Telangana chief minister),” he said.
BJP state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar too targeted KCR saying he stayed away from the KRMB meeting to cover up his failures. He alleged that Telangana’s interests have been mortgaged in getting the Krishna water share.