State

Centre's neutrality compromised in Mahanadi water dispute: BJD

New Delhi: The Biju Janata Dal today accused the NDA government of compromising its neutrality in Odisha's dispute with Chhattisgarh over Mahanadi river water-sharing and sought an urgent debate in the Lok Sabha over setting up of a tribunal to resolve differences between the two states.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab alleged that the BJP-led government has gone back on its word on establishing a tribunal as it had promised over a year ago.

Mahtab said the central government has conveyed to the Supreme Court that no tribunal would be set up to resolve the Mahanadi water dispute between Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

"Neutrality of the (central) government is compromised. Not only in the government, but neutrality is compromised in the Supreme Court also. It is a fit case for taking up as an adjournment motion," he said after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan rejected an adjournment motion on the issue.

While Odisha is ruled by the BJD, Chhattisgarh is governed by the BJP.

When Mahtab repeatedly asked the Speaker to reconsider her decision, Mahajan said she realised it was an important issue but would consider other applications if submitted by the BJD like a "calling attention motion" to discuss the matter.

MPs belonging to the Trinamoool Congress stood on their seats lending support to the BJD, with TMC leader Sudip Bandopadhyay telling the Speaker that his party fully supported Odisha's cause.

Mahtab said the Centre had promised to set up a tribunal to resolve issues relating to the sharing of the Mahanadi river water between Odisha and Chhattisgarh.

He said if the House discusses the issue, BJD members could ventilate their grievances and the MPs from Chhattisgarh could also take part in the discussion.

He also said that in reply to a parliament question, the Union Water Resources Ministry had said a draft cabinet note was ready and the tribunal would be set up.

But now, the central government has gone back on its words, he alleged.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had taken up the issue of construction of barrages upstream by Chhattisgarh at a trilateral meeting convened by then Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti on September 17 last year.

The Odisha government has also demanded that Chhattisgarh should stop construction of seven weirs (small dams) on the river.

Under the Inter State Water Dispute Act 1956 which provides legal framework to address such issues, a tribunal can be formed after a state government approaches the union government with such a request and the Centre is convinced of the need to set it up.

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