Do you want water or a tribunal? This was a question minister for water resources Nitin Gadkari posed to MPs of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in the Lok Sabha last month. The parliamentarians from Orissa were being adamant in their demand for a tribunal to decide the Mahanadi water dispute between their state and neighbouring Chhattisgarh.
There was no question of a climb-down by the BJD, which is preparing for a direct face-off with the BJP in the in state assembly elections next year. Gadkari’s contention fell on deaf years—after all, a similar issue that was mediated by tribunals remain unresolved for three decades. Down south, the Cauvery dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka lingered for 122 years before the Supreme Court came out with a verdict this February 16—despite a tribunal having been set up in 1990.
The 858-km-long Mahanadi, flowing seamlessly through the two politically antithetical states of east-central India, will finally get a tribunal. On February 20, the Union Cabinet gave its approval following the apex court’s directions. Politics seems to have firmly taken precedence over any genuine concern about equitable utilisation of water.
The Ken river, MP
With farmers’ issues likely to be at the centre of all forthcoming elections, including the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, water wars are not going to cease any time soon. Gadkari has repeatedly said that the country requires proper water management for the government to succeed in its plan to double the income of farmers by 2022. Ever since he took charge of the...