Patna, Jan. 17: Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have locked horns over sharing of water from the Bansagar project, in an echo of the bitter Cauvery dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
The Bihar water resources and irrigation ministry has approached its Central counterpart and the Prime Minister’s Office, drawing their attention to the predicament of farmers in the state because of Madhya Pradesh’s refusal to release adequate water.
Irrigation department commissioner and secretary B. Jaishankar said the standing crop in north Bihar’s Sone river catchment area was set to perish as the Rewa headquarters of the Bansagar project was not releasing water.
“We have sent an SOS to the chief secretary for release of at least 5,500 cusecs of water soon. We have urged the Union water resources ministry to intervene immediately,” he said.
Speaking on phone from Rewa, a superintending engineer of the project said the allegations were baseless. “Till an agreement on water-sharing is drawn up and a committee with members from all the beneficiary states starts functioning, disputes over the quantum of water (to be released) will be unavoidable,” he said, requesting anonymity.
The Bansagar Project was not yet complete though work has progressed to everybody’s satisfaction, he said, adding that the problems being faced might just be teething troubles.
Rajen Joshi, secretary to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh, said the dispute would be sorted out once Singh, now in Rewa, returns to Bhopal.
The Bansagar project was started in January 1976 with financial assistance from three states — Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. The project, on which Bihar has so far spent Rs 137.88 crore, is expected to stabilise irrigation through the old Sone Canal System, which provides water to the five districts of north Bihar, including Rohtas.
“The Bansagar Control Board’s promise to release enough water to irrigate 1 million acres in Bihar is yet to be honoured (this year). This has devastated the farmers of north Bihar,” said Tapas Kumar, a superintending engineer looking after the project’s benefits in this state.
After much persuasion, Madhya Pradesh released 880 cusecs of water, which is “woefully inadequate”, he added. Kumar alleged that Madhya Pradesh had played foul last year, too.
The farmers’ distress is acute this year as some reports said rivers in the Sone irrigation system, which is boosted by the Indravati barrage in Rohtas, have run dry. Water resources minister Jagtanand Singh has toured Rohtas and Sasaram districts to soothe the upset farmers.
RJD chief Laloo Prasad Yadav has said he would raise the issue in Parliament at the next opportunity. He has already blamed Bihar’s water woes on the “international obligation of the Government of India in water distribution”, pointing at the Farakka barrage, which channels Ganga water to Bangladesh.
He also told a recent meeting of economists that the Gandak flowing in from Nepal has turned into the Sorrow of Bihar, flooding its large portions annually.
The Koshi High Dam Project, offered to the state by the Centre as compensation, has also failed to end the state’s misery, he added.