Mahanadi row: Odisha to urge Centre on setting up tribunal

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution to urge the Centre in setting up a tribunal for resolving the Mahanadi water dispute between the state and Chhattisgarh.

The resolution was moved by government chief whip Amar Prasad Satpathy and was passed through a voice vote after a marathon four-hour debate in the House.

The members, cutting across party lines, felt that a tribunal is essential to resolve the dispute as the neighboring Chhattisgarh has undertaken construction of projects on the upstream of the Mahanadi river at the cost of Odisha's interest.

The resolution said that the dispute between the two states be resolved through a tribunal to be set up under Section 4 (1) of the Interstate River Water Disputes Act, 1956 (IRWD Act).

"A House Committee, comprising members from all parties under the chairmanship of the Leader of the House and chief minister, will place the assembly's demand before the Prime Minister of India," the resolution said.

Odisha has been opposing Chhattisgarh's action of constructing projects on the upstream of the Mahanadi river and had moved the Supreme Court after negotiation failed to achieve any result.

While moving the resolution, Satpathy alleged that the BJP-led central government has done injustice to Odisha by delaying or not willing to set up a tribunal to resolve the Mahanadi water dispute.

Leader of the opposition, Narasingha Mishra of the Congress, in his speech said, "The Centre has not done justice towards Odisha. The Centre is bound to set up a tribunal to resolve the Mahanadi dispute as per law."

Opposition BJP, which is often criticised for favouring Chhattisgarh as the state is ruled by the saffron party, however, made it clear that its Odisha unit was committed to fight for the rights of the local people.

"I once again announce that a tribunal is required for the interest of Odisha. We are with the people of Odisha and its farmers. Mahanadi is the lifeline for the people of both Odisha and Chhattisgarh," BJP legislature party leader K V Singhdeo said.

The BJP leader, however, raised question on the sincerity of the state government which failed to win in the Bansadhara Tribunal. He also rejected the rival parties' allegation that Chhattisgarh built dams and barrages to supply water to industries alone.

Singhdeo also criticised the BJD government for not constructing a single project over Mahanadi in the downstream to preserve water for drinking and irrigation.

Speaking on the debate, Odisha's parliamentary affairs minister B K Arukha said that the entire Mahanadi basin in the downstream would turn into a dead valley if Chhattisgarh was allowed to go ahead with its proposed projects.

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