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Mahadayi River dispute

  • The dispute over the sharing of the water of the Mahadayi or Mandovi river is between the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa
  • Mandovi river also known as Mahadayi, originates from a cluster of 30 springs near Bhimgad in the Western Ghats and forms into a river at Degaon village in Khanapur Taluk of Belagavi district of Karnataka and flows to Goa and Maharashtra. 
  • The Mahadayi is essentially a rain-fed river that flows at its peak during monsoon months. The river flows 35 km through Karnataka and then 52 km through Goa, before flowing into the Arabian Sea.
  • The Mahadayi catchment area covers around 2,032 km and includes some parts of Maharashtra near the Maharashtra-Karnataka border region.
  • The three states are locked in a prolonged dispute over sharing its water for the last 30 years. Attempts at negotiations among the states were initiated by the central government way back in 1985. 
  • The dispute reached a flashpoint in 2002 when the then Karnataka government decided to implement a long pending drinking water project by building a canal across two tributaries of the Mahadayi – Kalasa and Banduri. The project aimed to divert 7.56 TMC of water from the Mahadayi to the Malaprabha river in Karnataka to address the drinking water needs in three parched north Karnataka districts of Belagavi, Dharwad and Gadag. The Central government had then cleared the project but it was opposed by then government of Goa.
  • The government of Goa had argued that the Kalasa Banduri project would result in a huge ecological imbalance in Goa as the river support the fragile ecosystem in Western Ghats regions of Goa. Following objections the project stalled by the Central government.
  • Karnataka seeks the release of 7.56 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water for the Kalasa-Banduri Nala project to improve drinking water supply to the twin cities of Hubballi-Dharwad and districts of Belagavi and Gadag.
  • The regions of northern Karnataka, along with bordering areas of Maharashtra and Goa, have traditionally been dependent on monsoon rain with little investment made towards building rain-fed catchment dams to meet drinking and irrigation needs of people of the area.
  • The region depends on Mahadayi river basin that holds around 220 tmcft water, of which around 200 tmcft flows into the Arabian Sea after passing through Goa.
  • Given erratic monsoon patterns over the years, people of the region have been demanding drinking water and water to meet irrigation needs for agriculture.
  • Since the Mahadayi river is largely rain-fed between months of June through October, any diversion of waters by Karnataka would adversely affect the water needs of people of Goa.
  • Therefore, the state government of Goa approached the Supreme Court in September 2002 objecting to the plan, claiming any water diversion would deny people of Goa critical water it needs, besides having a negative impact on the highly sensitive ecology of Western Ghats.
  • In 2006, Goa had moved the apex court for establishing a tribunal. Justice JM Panchal headed the Mahadayi water dispute tribunal (MWDT) set up in 2010.
  • With the recent announcement, both Karnataka and Goa will have to wait for the final judgement from the tribunal.
  • When disputes arise between states in India over the sharing of river water, the first priority of the central government is to get the disputing parties to arrive at a negotiated settlement. When all dialogue fails, disputes are referred to legal redressal forums like tribunals.
  • Similar river water sharing disputes between states
    • River Krishna: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra
    • River Godavari: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha
    • River Narmada: Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat
    • River Cauvery: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Puducherry
    • River Krishna: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra
    • River Vansadhara: Andhra Pradesh and Odisha
    • River Ravi & Beas – Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal: Punjab and Haryana 

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