Over the past few months, the previously cordial relationship between the Chief Ministers of the two Telugu states has been disrupted by a fresh row over the sharing of the water from the Krishna and Godavari rivers. After much back and forth between the CMs and irrigation department officials of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, as well as the Krishna and Godavari River Management Boards (KRMB and GRMB), a meeting was held by the Apex Council on the issue.
The Apex Council was formed under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, to supervise the functioning of the Godavari and Krishna River Management Boards, and to resolve any dispute over sharing of river waters between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The meeting on Tuesday took place online because of the pandemic, and was attended by Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the chairperson of the Council, as well as Chief Ministers Jagan Mohan Reddy and K Chandrasekhar Rao, who are members of the Council.
This was the second meeting of the Apex Council since the bifurcation of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in 2014. The first meeting was held in 2016.
Here is a brief explainer on the events leading up to the second Apex Council meeting, where the two states stand on various issues and the major decisions announced after the meeting.
Trigger for the latest water row
Earlier in May, the Andhra Pradesh government sanctioned a few works under the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (RLIS). This included the upgradation of Pothireddypadu head regulator canal system and other projects worth over Rs 7,000 crore. The projects would result in Andhra drawing an additional quantity of six to eight TMCs (thousand million cubic feet) of water per day from the Srisailam reservoir on the Krishna river.
Irked by the move, Telangana CM KCR accused the Jagan government of taking “unilateral decisions”. Since then, Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan has repeatedly stated that his state would not draw a single drop of water beyond the quota already allocated by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT).
Objecting to the expansion of Pothireddypadu canal, the Telangana Irrigation department filed a complaint with KRMB claiming that the decision violated the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014. In a counter-attack, the Andhra government accused Telangana of carrying out several new irrigation projects since bifurcation without the required approvals.
KCR has refuted these allegations, saying all of these “new” projects had been designed by the government of combined Andhra Pradesh before the bifurcation.
Since then, Jagan has constantly reiterated the dire need to divert water to the drought-prone districts in state, including Kurnool, Kadapa, Anantapur and Chittoor (the four districts which constitute the Rayalaseema region), as well as Nellore and Prakasam districts. He has also claimed that Telangana’s irrigation projects had an adverse effect on these districts
KCR, on the other hand, has talked about Telangana’s prolonged struggle for water resources, and has blamed the Union government and the KRMB for being ineffective in helping the state get its fair share of Krishna waters even after bifurcation.
The second Apex Council meeting
The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 requires both state governments to get the approval of the Apex Council before taking up any new projects on the Godavari and Krishna rivers.
Acting on the complaints made by Andhra Pradesh, the KRMB and GRMB barred the Telangana government from going ahead with their new projects across the rivers, till sanction was obtained from the Apex Council.
On the other hand, the Union government had also asked KRMB to look into Andhra’s plans of drawing additional water from the Srisailam project, and also directed the board to stop the Andhra government from proceeding further on the project.
Constitution of a new tribunal
The sharing of Krishna waters between Telugu states is yet to be awarded by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal, which also is responsible for allotment of water to states like Maharashtra through which the Krishna river also flows through.
At the Apex Council meeting, KCR sought the immediate formation of a new tribunal to address the sharing of Krishna river water between the two states. He said that the Telangana government had written to the Centre in 2014, soon after the state’s formation, seeking the constitution of a tribunal under the inter-state water disputes act, 1956. He later filed a petition in the Supreme Court after one year, as the Centre did not take any measures in this regard.
With Shekhawat saying that such a decision cannot be made as the case is pending in the SC, KCR agreed to withdraw its petition on the condition that the tribunal is constituted. Shekhawat later clarified that once Telangana withdraws its case, the Union government will seek legal opinion and decide on whether to constitute a new tribunal, or give new terms of reference to the existing tribunal, the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-II.
Jurisdiction of Krishna and Godavari River Management Boards
Deliberation on deciding the jurisdiction of both Godavari and Krishna River Management Boards was on the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting. Six years after bifurcation, their jurisdiction is yet to be notified.
According to reports, while Jagan sought the notification of jurisdiction, claiming that not doing so has hindered the KRMB from exercising its powers, KCR has opposed it. However, Shekhawat said that the Centre will go ahead with notifying the jurisdiction of both the river management boards. He also said that while KCR had dissented to the decision, as per Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, no consensus was needed in this regard.
Submission of Detailed Project Reports
In order to grant approval for any new projects on either river, the two states were asked to submit the DPRs of such projects. Shekhawat said both the CMs agreed to submit the DPRs of all the projects taken up by their respective states. He also assured them that the technical appraisal of all the projects will be done at the shortest possible time.
Both CMs have been claiming that the projects under contention in their respective states cannot be considered “new” projects.
However, the Union government reportedly said that projects for which water has not yet been allocated by the Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal shall be treated as new projects. With this, the Rayalaseema and Kaleshwaram lift irrigation schemes will also be considered as new projects.
Control of major dams
The Krishna river flows along the border of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, and the water is distributed between the two states through two main projects —  the Nagarjuna Sagar dam downstream and the Srisailam dam upstream.
Days before the Apex Council meeting, KCR wrote to Shekhawat seeking the transfer operational control of the Srisailam reservoir from Andhra Pradesh, to stop Andhra from expanding the Pothireddypadu Head Regulator and constructing the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (RLIS) on the Krishna river.
Jagan reportedly demanded that the maintenance of both Nagarjunasagar and Srisailam projects be transferred to the KRMB. The issue remained inconclusive, with Shekhawat stating that a decision would be taken as per the law.
After bifurcation, of the 811 TMC of water allocated to the united state, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were sharing 512 TMC and 299 TMC respectively.
In a letter to the Jal Shakti Minister, Jagan has argued that Andhra Pradesh needs to draw water from Srisailam for six drought-prone districts, while Telangana’s requirement is only for two districts (Mahabubnagar, part of Nalgonda and part of Rangareddy). He claimed that Telangana can draw upto 7 TMC per day from the foreshore of Srisailam Reservoir from a water  level of about 800 feet or even lower. Justifying the expansion work taken up under Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (RLIS), Jagan wrote that Andhra  currently does  not have the capacity to draw water into Pothireddypadu at a level below 881 feet.
KCR, however, has warned that if Andhra Pradesh goes ahead with the Pothireddypadu project, Telangana will construct a barrage at Alampur-Pedda Marur to lift 3 TMC of water per day for agriculture, if neighbouring Andhra Pradesh does not stop construction of “illegal” projects like Pothireddypadu on Krishna river.
He said the Telangana government would protect its farmers’ interests if the Andhra government “attempts to render injustice to Telangana”.
In his letter to Shekhawat, KCR had mentioned that Telangana is also in dire need of additional water, in order to meet the requirements of more than one crore population of Hyderabad, including 30 to 40 lakh migrant workers. “The city needs more water due to the expansion of IT and pharma industries and the growth of its urban agglomerations,” he wrote. #KhabarLive #hydnews
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