Bhubaneswar, Sept. 13: In a jolt to the state government, a river water dispute tribunal today set a few riders but gave the go ahead to Andhra Pradesh for the construction of Neradi barrage and a side weir (a low dam) at Katragada on river Vansadhara.
The Vansadhara Water Dispute Tribunal set up in 2010 to look into the dispute between the two states over the sharing of river water also ordered the formation of a supervisory committee to monitor the implementation of its order.
Though the two states had in 1962 agreed to share the river waters on a 50:50 basis, a dispute arose when Andhra in 1990 proposed construction of Neradi barrage on the river that originates in Odisha's Kalahandi district and flows into the Bay of Bengal after traversing 154km in the state.
Apprehending inundation in parts of Gunpur and its adjoining areas in Rayagada district and arguing that the state's water needs would be prejudicially affected by the project, the Odisha government had lodged a protest with the Centre in 2006. Subsequently it had also approached the Supreme Court that on February 2, 2007, directed the Centre to set up the tribunal for which a notification was issued on February 24, 2010.
"The tribunal hereby permits the state of Andhra to construct the Neradi barrage across the river Vansadhara with ancillary structures," the tribunal said in the order.
While the tribunal permitted Andhra Pradesh to withdraw the river water from the barrage during first crop period (from June 1 to November 30 every year), it said that all flows thereafter should be let down in the river for use by both the states as agreed upon.
The tribunal also permitted Andhra to construct the side weir, along with ancillary structures, with the condition that it can withdraw water from it only up to 8,000 million cubic feet between June 1 and November 30 every year.
The side weir at Katragada has to be totally plugged and made non-functional once the Neradi barrage is commissioned, the tribunal clarified.
The four-member supervisory committee announced by the tribunal will have two members from the Central Water Commission (CWC) and one each from Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
The tribunal in its order also made provisions for payment of compensation to Odisha for any damages caused by the backwaters of Neradi barrage.
"The state of Andhra Pradesh, on the recommendation of the supervisory committee, which shall be final and binding, shall make the payment to the state of Odisha on account of the compensation for the damages, if any, caused by backwater of Neradi barrage beyond its pool level," it said.
Former engineer-in-chief, Odisha's water resources department, Harish Chandra Behera, described the verdict as disappointing. He said that the state's concerns had not been addressed.
BJD spokesperson, Samir Dash sought to put up a brave face. "We have got what we wanted from the tribunal," he said.
On the other hand members of Vansadhara Ababahika Samiti, a voluntary body working to protect the interests of people in the river's catchment area in Odisha, has decided to intensify its activities in the wake of the verdict.
(With inputs from PTI)