Vamsadhara River Water Dispute

Vamsadhara River Water Dispute

Introduction

Vamsadhara River is an east-flowing river which begins in Kalahandi district of Orissa, flows in Orissa alongside its boundary with Andhra Pradesh and finally unites with the Bay of Bengal at Kalingapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. It is the chief river of north-eastern Andhra region and the Boddepalli Rajagopala Rao Project was constructed on it to meet the irrigation requirements of the region. The total catchment vicinity of the river basin is about 10,830 Square Kilometers.

The Vamsadhara Water Dispute Tribunal directed its order soliciting the officials of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa to carry out a joint survey for identifying 106 acres of land in Orissa for the construction of Neradi barrage across the river under the supervision of Central Water Commission to be executed. Officials of both the States were posed to commence the survey by the end of monsoon, and comprehend it in six weeks with further proceeding directions.

On September 30, 1962, it was concurred by both the States to share the available yield of 115 TMC of water assessed up to Gotta in the Vamsadhara river basin by equal ratios. As per the evaluation of CWC in 2007, the yield of Vamsadhara is 105 TMC of stream.

Background

The State of Orissa in February 2006 dispatched a complaint to the Central Government under Section 3 of the Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act, 1956 pertaining to Inter-State River Vamsadhara for intercession between the Government of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. The foremost grievance of the State of Orissa in the complaint was based on the adverse consequence of the executive action of Government of Andhra Pradesh in undertaking the construction of a canal taking off from the river Vamsadhara called as ‘Flood Flow Canal’ at Katragada and hence failure to put into practice the terms of Inter-State agreement understanding involving to use, distribution and manage of waters of Inter-State river Vamsadhara and its valley. Basic disputation of State of Orissa in the complaint is that the Flood Flow Canal would result in drying up the existing river bed and resultant shifting of the river affecting ground water table.  It has also raised a subject matter of scientific assessment of available water in Vamsadhara at Katragada and Gotta Barrage and the basis for sharing the available water.

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Facts of the dispute

The Andhra Pradesh Government had offered to take up the Vamsadhara project in two phases. Phase I presiding of Gotta barrage and the Left Main Canal (LMC) to irrigate 1.48 Lakh acres by consuming 17.841 TMC of the river water. In stage II, irrigation of 1.07 Lakh acres with 16.048 TMC of water by constructing Neradi barrage was projected.

  • Andhra Pradesh covets to build the Neradi Bridge across the river which will be achievable only after Orissa’s consent.
  • Orissa quarrels that the flood flow canal would result in drying up the existing river bed and consequential shifting of the river affecting the groundwater table.
  • Orissa also raised the concern of scientific assessment of available water in Vamsadhara at Katragada and Gotta Barrage, Andhra Pradesh and the basis for sharing the existing water.
  • Andhra Pradesh also desires to complete the inter-linking of its Nagavali River with the Vamsadhara and enlarge the Madduvalasa Reservoir project soon.
  • Madduvalasa Project is a Medium Irrigation Project with a reservoir crossways Suvarnamukhi river which is a tributary of Nagavali River.

Verdict of the Dispute

Vamsadhara Water Disputes Tribunal was commenced in February, 2010 to decide water sharing disputes between Andhra Pradesh and Orissa led by Justice Mukundakam Sharma who is the chairman of Vamsadhara Water Dispute Tribunal. The tribunal pronounced its concluding verdict in September 2017 and permitted Andhra Pradesh to build the side weir at Katragadda and Neradi barrage. The tribunal also upheld the division of 115 TMC ft total yields as per the 1962 agreement.

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Though Orissa had decided in principle for the construction of Neradi barrage, it had objected for the project implementation on the ground of the possibility of the excess land acquisition over and above the mutually agreed extent of 106 acres and backwater effect due to the barrage. On April 5, 2019, the VWDT expressed to conduct a joint survey by the officials of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa under the administration of CWC for identifying 106 acres of land in Orissa. Though the Orissa Government plead to the tribunal to modify the order, VWDT pronounced its judgment reiterating its earlier order of the joint survey.

Recent Developments

The Vamsadhara Water Disputes Tribunal has got a further extension after the non-settlement of the nine year existent disagreement. Currently there is a presence of five functional tribunals, out of which The Vamsadhara Water Disputes Tribunal got an extension issued by the Water Resources Ministry, Jai Shakti which contended that ‘certain actions are still pending for completion by the Tribunal’ along with the other remaining four Tribunals who were lacking the apt provisions to complete the task under the existing law.

After the Bill from Inter-State River Water Dispute (Amendment), 2019 becomes an Act after the assent of Rajya Sabha and President, only those disagreements will be referred to the Tribunals who are not handled by DRC (Disputes Resolution Committee) within maximum 18 months. Along with the launch of DRC, the bill also seeks to speed up the adjudication of water disputes with the new laws presiding in the same. The decision of Bench of the Tribunal will be foremost and binding on all the states concerned and it will have an equivalent force of conduct as a Supreme Court’s order or decree.

Critical Analysis and Conclusion

To derive the early profits of river water, which otherwise goes waste into the sea and also in outlook of the abnormal delay in obtaining the concurrence of Orissa Government, the Andhra Pradesh Government had proposed to assemble a side weir and flood flow canal at Katragadda village in Srikakulam district about 2 km upstream of the proposed Neradi barrage as a provisional structure to divert floodwater into Hiramandalam reservoir. Though Orissa agreed in theory for the construction of Neradi barrage, it had objected to giving concurrence for the venture execution on the ground of possibility of the excess land acquisition over and above the mutually agreed degree of 106 acres and backwater effect due to the barrage, in the waken of floods in 1980.

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Agriculture is the only promised economic activity for the people living in the backward constituency and in the absence of rapid industrialization, there is a need to concentrate on irrigation ventures to make agriculture a viable activity. River waters utilization or harnessing is incorporated in states jurisdiction. However, Article 262 of the Constitution grants for the adjudication of Inter-State Water Disputes. The President of India may also institute an Inter-State Council as per Article 263 to inquire and counsel on the dispute that has arisen between the states.

The Parliament has ratified the two laws, the River Boards Act (1956) and the Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956). The Inter-State Water Disputes Act sanctions the Central government to set up an ad hoc tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute between two or more states in relation to the waters of an Inter-State river or river valley. The award of the tribunal is final and obligatory on the parties to the dispute and neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to have authority in respect of any water dispute which may be referred to such a panel under this Act.

Author: Gayatri Sharma,
GGSIPU, Jims School of Law, 2nd year/ Student

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