The inter-state dispute over sharing of Krishna waters came to the fore again this week following reports that Andhra Pradesh is going ahead with the construction of the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Project (RLIP) despite the orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to stop the work.
Ignoring the objections of Telangana, the Andhra government reportedly executed work relating to the RLIP during the second wave of Covid-19.
Telangana says that RLIP will badly affect its interests while Andhra maintains that it is not using more water than what was allotted to it under the water sharing agreement.
“If Andhra diverts five tmcft of water every day, our five districts will be badly affected,” said Telangana’s Energy Minister Jagadish Reddy.
The water disputes between the two states have their roots in the pre-Telangana era. Leaders of the Telangana region in combined Andhra Pradesh had always complained about the injustice meted out to the region in allocation of rivers waters and construction of irrigation projects by successive governments.
In fact injustice in allocation of water resources, funds and jobs was the slogan on which Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) fought for separate statehood to the region.
After Telangana gained statehood in 2014, the disputes over sharing of water intensified as upper riparian state Andhra Pradesh was accused of drawing more water by taking up illegal projects.
The Telangana government headed by TRS chief K. Chandrasekhara Rao has been claiming that it is fighting to safeguard the state’s interests.
As per the temporary allocation made after the formation of Telangana State, out of 811 tmcft of Krishna water, Telangana was allotted 299 tmcft and Andhra 512 tmcft. The Telangana government, however, maintains that it should get at least 565 tmcft, with the balance going to Andhra Pradesh.
Telangana has requested the Centre to refer the issue of redistribution of Krishna water by constituting a new tribunal or referring to Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-II with new terms of reference.
Telangana withdrew the case in the Supreme Court to facilitate this but the delay on the part of the Centre to act on its request is causing concern to the Telangana government.
At the previous apex council meeting held in October 2020, Union Minister of Jal Shakti Gajendra Singh Shekhawat had stated that the Centre would seek legal opinion on the issue. However, he has not yet decided on a new tribunal or referring the issue to KWDT-II.
Even as this issue was pending with the Centre, reports of Andhra taking up work on RLIP sparked the latest row.
The Telangana Cabinet took serious note of the development as RLIP will allegedly divert Krishna water from Srisailam reservoir to outside the basin.
The Telangana government approached the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) to prevent Andhra Pradesh from proceeding with the illegal construction of the project and also send a fact finding committee to the project site.
Telangana special chief secretary (irrigation) Rajat Kumar sent a letter to KRMB seeking steps to protect the genuine and legitimate claims of Telangana on Krishna waters.
“As per section 85(8)(d) of the AP Reorganisation Act of 2014, it is the responsibility of the KRMB to restrain AP from proceeding with RLIP works, enhancement of Srisailam right main canal and other works. The ministry of jal shakti has already directed AP not to proceed with the project without submitting the DPR before the KRMB and getting its approval,” Rajat Kumar said.
Following this, KRMB directed the AP water resources secretary to not go ahead with the work until the detailed project report is appraised by the authorities concerned.
While Telangana officials alleged that work was in full swing, their Andhra counterparts denied this. They maintained that others work such as canal lining was being taken up.
Rajat Kumar also found fault with KRMB for not sending a fact-finding committee to the project site despite a direction by the NGT in February.
Meanwhile Telangana Sarpanches’ Association member, Gavinola Srinivas, also filed a contempt petition in the NGT.
The Chennai bench of the NGT on June 25 cautioned the Andhra government that the chief secretary would be sent to jail if the government failed to follow the directives.
The bench directed the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) and the regional office of the Union ministry of environment, to submit a report on the current situation of the RLIP project site.
At the political level, a bitter war of words ensued between the two states. A Telangana minister went to the extent of calling Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy a ‘water thief’.
A couple of Telangana ministers even dragged Jagan Reddy’s father and late chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy into the row. They recalled how YSR, as the late leader was popularly known, did injustice to Telangana as the chief minister of combined Andhra Pradesh.
Roads and Buildings minister Vemula Prashanth Reddy said if YSR had been a ‘water thief’, his son Jagan Mohan Reddy had turned out to be a ‘bigger thief’.
Goud went on to remark how many people believe that if YSR was alive, a separate Telangana state would not have become a reality.
However, Andhra minister Perni Nani alleged that Telangana leaders are acting provocatively on the water dispute. “Neither Andhra Pradesh nor Telangana will benefit from these acts. Our policy is clear. We have no intention of provoking emotions,” he said.
“Andhra Pradesh is not taking even a single drop more than what is allotted to it. We want cordial relations with the Centre and neighbouring states,” he said.
“Everyone knows what YSR has done for Telangana. Some leaders in Telangana are criticizing YSR for political gains,” he said.