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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jan 28:

The state government today rejected Union government’s proposal of formation of the 11-member Negotiation Committee to resolve water dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh reasoning that the panel will “only delay the setting up of a Tribunal”.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wrote a letter to Prime Minister Naveen Patnaik seeking his intervention to instruct the Union government to withdraw the office memorandum constituting the Committee and initiate the constitution of a Tribunal as the water disputes raised in the statutory complaint of Odisha cannot the resolved by negotiations.

“I would request that the state of Chhattisgarh be immediately directed to stop the works of the ongoing projects on the Mahanadi basin. However, as a last and final chance to settle the dispute by negotiations, I am open to attend a meting at your level, if the meeting of the Chief Ministers of the riparian states is called immediately,” Naveen wrote in his letter.

Expressing deep concern over Centre failing to instruct Chhattisgarh to stop work in the Mahanadi basin, Naveen said: “It has caused serious discontent in the minds of the people of Odisha who are hugely dependent on the waters of River Mahanadi. The Committee will only delay the setting up of a Tribunal which will allow Chhattisgarh to complete the construction of the disputed projects.”

Further, Naveen stated that the Committee is not in accordance with the provisions of Sec 4(1) of the Inter State River Water Disputes Act, 1956 and its composition is arbitrary.

“The provisions of the Act puts responsibility on the Central government to negotiate after receiving the complaint and in this regard, the principle of federal relations mandates that the constitutional functionaries namely Prime Minister or Union Minister for Water Resources should conduct negotiations with the Chief Ministers of the riparian states rather than appointing a Committee headed by an officer of the subordinate office namely, CWC. In fact, recognizing this Constitutional position, Union Minister for Water Resources Uma Bharti had called a meeting of the Chief Ministers of the riparian States on September 17 last year at New Delhi. However, Bharti could not successfully mediate, particularly by failing to direct Chhattisgarh from going ahead with the construction of ongoing disputed projects in the Mahanadi basin,” he added.

Justifying his stand on delaying in formation of a Tribunal, Naveen stated: “Besides the Member, CWC who has been nominated as the Chairman of the Committee, the Committee comprises six nominees of the Central government agencies and one member each from the other non contesting basin states of Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in all covering less than 0.5% of the total catchment of the inter state Mahanadi basin. The outcome from such Committee with representatives from states who have no real stakes will lack focus and unnecessarily delay the whole process.”