ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Resolving the Mahanadi Water Conflict

To chalk out the future course of action in view of the disputes regarding the use of Mahanadi river water, a well-rounded strategy that includes both the people and policymakers is needed. The strategy must allow for dialogue by rebuilding trust and should look at arbitration and negotiation as methods of conflict resolution. It is necessary to evolve a strategy that optimises the rational usage of Mahanadi water to benefit people from both Chhattisgarh and Odisha, coupled with the implementation of a multi-stakeholder forum that finds peaceful solutions and minimises areas of contention in a negotiable and consensual manner.

The construction of dams and barrages in the upper catchment area of the Mahanadi river gives rise to the looming fear that the flow of water into the Hirakud dam will slow down and, consequently, a massive spat between the states of Odisha and Chhattisgarh will ensue, with all its political overtones. The ecological balance of the river has been gravely affected by the rapid industrialisation undertaken by both states. On the one hand, the Mahanadi is the means of survival for the people of Odisha. The government will not be able to cater to the developmental needs of the state if the flow of water decreases. On the other hand, Chhattisgarh, which speeded up its developmental work after its separation from Madhya Pradesh (MP), has a huge water requirement. Both states are now at loggerheads over their right to the Mahanadi water.

The impasse over sharing the Mahanadi water has deepened between these two contiguous states that seek to safeguard their own interests. Both states have misused the water of the Mahanadi to a considerable extent by supporting extractive industries. Of course, states need industries, but industries should not operate at the cost of irrigation and farmers. The growing industrial civilisation fed by the waters of the Mahanadi is at direct war with the ecological civilisation of the basin. The states compete with each other to attract industries to set up within their borders, but they remain oblivious to their irrigation commitments and promises. The unilateral action of the Chhattisgarh government has led the issue to snowball into a political storm. Most projects undertaken in Chhattisgarh are devoid of any proper environmental impact assessment. The construction of the Kelo dam was approved in 2009. The other three pending projects are the Tandula Reservoir Project, the Sondur Reservoir Project, and the Arpa-Bhaisajhar Barrage Project. The problem came about because a joint control board was not formed as per an interstate agreement between Odisha andMP in 1983, when Chhattisgarh was a part of MP.

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Updated On : 26th Dec, 2017

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