DIVERSION: With water guzzlers like paddy, sugarcane and horticultural crops taking over the traditional cropping patterns of the area; four sugar mills mushrooming in the last three decades; and the four-month cultivation cycle being replaced by the eleven-month requirement of water intensive crops, the Malaprabha basin is drought prone. The Karnataka government is allegedly trying to divert the waters of the Mhadei river to the Malaprabha basin which is against the spirit of assurance given by Karnataka to the tribunal
The Mhadei is the source of the Mandovi. If the waters of the Mhadei are plundered by Karnataka it will amount to destroying the womb of our mother Mandovi
By Rajan Narayan
The rivers of Goa whether it is the Mandovi or the Zuari or the Sal river or the Chapora do not belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They do not belong to the BJP party president Amit Shah to use for winning elections in Karnataka. They do not belong to Manohar Parrikar who, at the expense of Goa, so generously offered to share the waters of the Mhadei with Karnataka so that Karnataka would be able to oust the Congress from power. They do not belong to Yeddyurappa, the president of Karnataka BJP and their candidate for the chief minister’s post in the Karnataka Assembly election to be held early this year. Yeddyurappa is not even the chief minister of Karnataka and has no authority to discuss the sharing of Mhadei waters with the Goa chief minister. If any discussion takes place it should be between the chief minister of Goa and Karnataka. Unfortunately for Amit Shah and Manohar Parrikar the Congress rules Karnataka and the chief minister is a Congress leader. So sending a letter offering to share the waters to the Karnataka chief minister will not help the BJP.
The rivers of Goa do not belong to any politicians whether it is the BJP national party president, the BJP president of Karnataka, the chief minister of Goa or the chief minister of Karnataka. Similarly the Mhadei river does not belong to either the national party president of the BJP or the Karnataka BJP president. It does not belong to even the Congress chief minister of Karnataka. The Mandovi River belongs to the people of Goa. The Mhadei river belongs to the people of Karnataka. Both the rivers belong to the people of India and not the politicians of India.
The question is not if the former Congress CM Pratap Singh Rane gave his consent for the diversion of the Mhadei river waters to Karnataka. Though Rane is denying it, it is quite possible because his wife Vijaya Devi Rane belongs to the royal family of Sandore or at least that is what she claims. Her brother Ghorpode is not only a senior Congress leader in Karnataka but has even been a minister in the Congress government in Karnataka. Even if Rane did write a letter permitting the diversion of the Mhadei river to Karnataka and Maharashtra it has no legal value. It has as little value as the letter written by Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar to the Karnataka BJP President Yeddyurappa.
The ground reality is that the Karnataka government has already started diverting the waters of the Mhadei to meet requirements, not only of drinking, but also of irrigation, of the districts of Dharward and Hubli. On my last visit to Belgaum I saw construction work going on at the Kalsa site near the Kanakavali village at a frantic pace. As the former Advocate General Atmaram Nadkarni has pointed out in many interviews to the local media, Goa has never had any objection to using the Mhadei waters for drinking. Nobody can be as inhuman as to deny drinking water to people of the neighbouring state.
MIGRANTS IN GOA
ALSO, half the population of Hubli and Belgaum are migrants in Goa and in any case drinking Goan water and not Karnataka water, but water which comes to Goa from the Mhadei river. So Goa is already sharing a large quantity of water with the huge Kannadiga population in Goa. As Nadkarni has pointed out, the drinking water requirements of Karnataka from the Mhadei river is less than 0.8 TCU.
Moreover, what is worrying is the diversion of the Mhadei, not people drawing water from the Mhadei for drinking purposes. Even the chief minister Manohar Parrikar has been taken for a ride by Amit Shah and Yeddyurappa and in his letter has offered 7.8 TCU as against the 0.8 TCU that they need for drinking purposes. Far from diverting the waters of the Mhadei only for drinking purposes, Karnataka wants to loot the waters of the Mhadei for irrigation. And not just for growing the basic requirement of the aam aadmi, like rice and ragi, but for water-guzzling cash crops like sugarcane.
Karnataka, according to the affidavit filed by Atmaram Nadkarni before the Mhadei waters tribunal, has already destroyed the Malaprabha basin by encouraging farmers to switch from rice and ragi to sugarcane and cotton, both of which require huge quantities of water. What the Karnataka government is attempting to do is to divert the waters of the Mhadei to the Malaprabha basin by building as many as eight dams across the river Mhadei. This will result in a diversion of over a hundred TMC from the Mhadei river to Karnataka. The consequence of this is disaster for Goa.
States must learn to share the water from their rivers. They have no choice in the matter because rivers have their origin in one state and flow through many states. The Gangas, considered one of the most holy rivers (and the dirtiest) starts from manus Gangotri in Tibet and flows through most of the states in North India, including Punjab and UP.
SIMILARLY the Mhadei river starts in a section of the ghats in Karnataka for about 40 km, then enters Goa and flows over a length of 28 km, and thereafter goes to Maharashtra. Hence the waters of the Mhadei are shared by the three states of Karnataka Goa and Maharashtra. It is precisely because of disputes between states about the quantity of water they can use from interstate rivers, that there is a mechanism for setting up a tribunal to ensure fair distribution of the water. It is in conformity with this principle of fair distribution that Goa has insisted that it cannot permit the diversion of any water from the Mhadei river excepting for a minimum quantity of 0.8 TCU for drinking purposes.
This is not because Goa is greedy and wants all the water of the Mhadei river. This is because it is a matter of life and death for Goa. Goa is entirely dependent on the Mhadei river not only for drinking water but for navigation. Very little water from the Mhadei unfortunately is used or misused by Goa for irrigation because all the agricultural fields in Goa have turned into concrete jungles.
Goa does have a sugarcane factory but grows very little sugar cane with most of the raw material having to be imported from outside the states. Unlike Karnataka, the waters of the Mandovi which are derived from the Mhadei, are very crucial for river transport in Goa. Historically, the mining industry, which was the backbone of the Goan economy, only survived because ore was transported through water ways by barges to the MPT from which it was exported. Even now mine owners take the ore from the extraction point to the closest river jetty and transport it in huge barges to the MPT where trans-shippers take them to mega container vessels mid sea.
GOAN mine owners discovered much before Union Minister for Transport Nitin Gadkari that transport of goods by waterways is much cheaper than transport either by rail or road. Never mind that transport of toxic products like ore and coal end up polluting the river. But it’s not just ore and coal, even casinos pollute the Mandovi river when they release untreated sewage into the river. Which is why the Goa state pollution control board (GSPCB) recently found that the quantity of e coli, which is an indication of fecal matter or shit, is very high in the Mandovi thanks to the existing five casinos which the casino owners are boasting have been attracting thousands, if not lakhs of tourists every year. I presume like all other humans they use the toilets in the casino where the waste, instead of being collected and removed from the ship, is happily dumped into the river. If the Mhadei waters are diverted there will be no water in the Mandovi river. Which is perhaps why the chief minister is claiming that in four years time all the offshore casinos will be on land. Not because they are going to shift out of the Mandovi. But because if the Mhadei waters are diverted without any limit by the Karnataka government there will be no water in the Mandovi river and the offshore casinos will be resting on the river-bed.
I can understand the political compulsions of Manohar Parrikar. He is a solider of the BJP. More importantly, he is a soldiers of the RSS which has a very big presence in north Karnataka. Manohar Parrikar was to a large extent responsible for creating the monster Narendra Modi, who in turn created the other monster, Amit Shah. So Manohar Parrikar has to obey the orders of the party president Amit Shah.
Although the BJP accuses the Congress of following dynastic rule and not upholding the principles of democracy, the BJP is worse. In the BJP everyone has to obey the orders of the national president Amit Shah. If Amit Shah had requested or ordered Manohar Parrikar to offer to share the waters of the Mhadei with Karnataka out of genuine concern for the drinking water requirements of Dharward and Hubli, the chief minister would have been justified in writing a letter to the chief minister of Karnataka.
IN ANY case Parrikar had no business to write a letter on the sharing on the Mhadei waters to Yeddyurappa the BJP president instead of to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. The letter was written not because Amit Shah or Modi is concerned over whether the people of Karnataka get drinking water or not. It was written purely for political reasons. It was written to help Yeddyurappa, who heads the BJP in Karnataka, to win the Assembly elections to be held soon in the states. Amit Shah is determined to recover Karnataka from the Congress. Never mind that Yeddyurappa had to resign as the BJP chief minister of Karnataka on corruption charges.
What we are shocked about is that the coalition partners of the BJP, Goa Forward and the MGP also seen to be supporting the chief minister. A veteran BJP leader called me on Sunday expre
ssing shock over Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar sacrificing the interest of Goa for the sake of the victory of the BJP in Karnataka assembly election. He told me angrily that the MGP, of which he is the senior leader wanted to merge Goa with Maharashtra. The MGP accepted the verdict of the people of Goa. The senior MGP leader is shocked that the BJP leader seems to be trying to merge Goa with Karnataka during the Golden Jubilee of the Opinion Poll. Equally shocking is the face of Goenkarponn, Vijai Sardesai, supporting a diversion of Mhadei waters and defending Parrikar to send a letter to Yeddyurappa.
The Mhadei is our avoi (mother) because it is the avoi of Mandovi. If Karnataka is allowed to destroy the womb of Goa by permitting the diversion of the waters of the Mandovi it will kill Goa. Indians from all parts of the country from the richest to the poorest, and people from all parts of the world come to Goa not only to enjoy the sun the sea and the sand but the greenery. Goa is the only state where there are trees everywhere. On the side of the roads, in the middle of the villages and where the hillsides are still quite covered with green rather than gated colonies (although that is changing fast). Goa is the only place in the country which has more than 30% of its land area under forest cover. Goa is the only place in the country where coconuts rise into the sky. Green Goa will become brown or white concrete Goa if the waters of the Mhadei are diverted for large scale irrigation to the Malaprabha basis and eight dams are built to stop water from flowing to Goa. It will be a disaster greater than the Narmada dam in Gujarat which has displaced hundreds and thousands of adivasis and caused sustained protests which the government has been turning a blind eye to for years.