Bhubaneswar: In what is being perceived as a setback to Odisha, a river water dispute tribunal today found the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh water-sharing claim maintainable and allowed it to put in place Neradi Barrage on the Vansadhara river, originating in Odisha, and a side weir in Katragada with riders.
The ruling on the interstate river water dispute was pronounced today seven years after the Vansadhara Water Dispute Tribunal (VWDT) was constituted to look into the dispute between the two states.
It is being widely believed that VWDT ruled largely in favour Andhra Pradesh. However the tribunal called for the yield of the river at strategic Gotta barrage 50:50 share basis between two states. There is every possibility of Odisha government challenging tribunal’s ruling in the Supreme Court.
The VWDT pronounced its ruling under section-6 of interstate river water dispute act, 1956.
In a relief to Odisha, the tribunal said AP shall make payment of compensation on account of damages that might occur in Odisha due to the construction of Neradi barrage backwater
The tribunal issued direction for the setting up of an interstate regulatory board for implementing the order. The regulatory board will comprise of four members- two from central water commission, one each from AP and Odisha.
Odisha shall acquire 106 acre for Neradi barrage project and hand it over to AP within one year for the construction of the barrage, the tribunal ruled.
The tribunal accorded permission to AP to construct side weir along with ancillary structure. Odisha’s neighbouring state was also permitted draw water up to 8 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) from June 1 to November 30 every year.
The tribunal permits AP government to construct Neradi barrage with ancillary structure to meet with 8000 cusec water for AP’s requirement. The barrage will have left hand sluice to meet with Odisha’s need and its cost will be borne by Odisha.
The side weir at Katragada shall be plugged after Neradi barrage comes up, the tribunal ruled.
The tribunal ordered that the proposed barrage must get required clearances from the Central Water Commission (CWC), the ministries of water resources, environment and forest, tribal affairs, and other bodies.
The three-member tribunal with Justice Mukundakam Sharma as its chairman, asked Andhra Pradesh to pay Odisha all the costs, including compensation and expenses.
Representatives of the two states termed the order as "50:50" victory for them.
The tribunal was set up after Odisha complained 11 years ago that the construction of the weir will affect its water needs. The Vansadhara originates in Odisha and flows into the Bay of Bengal after traversing 154 kms in Odisha and 82 kms in Andhra Pradesh. The river is common border for about 29 kms in the two states.
The tribunal said that the cost of the project will be borne between the two states on 'ayacut' basis if and when Odisha decides on irrigation using the barrage water in future. 'Ayacut' is an area served by an irrigation project.
On the formation of the supervisory committee, the tribunal said it would consist of four members comprising CWC chief engineer (as the panel's chairman), CWC superintending engineer/director and one representative each from Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. The Centre and the states have to name the members "not later than three months" from the publication of the decision in the official gazette.
"The state of Andhra Pradesh, on the recommendation of the Supervisory Committee, which shall be final and binding, shall make the payment to the state of Odisha on account of the compensation for the damages, if any, caused by backwater of Neradi Barrage beyond its pool level," the tribunal said.
Odisha had approached the Centre on February 13, 2006, complaining that it was likely to be affected by "prejudicially" if Andhra Pradesh constructed the proposed weir or the barrier.
Odisha had also approached the Supreme Court, which had on February 2, 2007 directed the Centre to set up the tribunal. Subsequently, the central government issued a notification about its formation on February 24, 2010.