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Vansadhara River Water Dispute
The State of Orissa in February 2006 sent a complaint to the Central Government under Section 3 of the Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act, 1956 regarding water disputes between the Government of Orissa and Government of Andhra Pradesh pertaining to Inter-State River Vansadhara for constitution of a Inter-State Water Disputes Tribunal for adjudication. The main grievance of the State of Orissa in the complaint sent to the Central Government is basically adverse effect of the executive action of Govt. of Andhra Pradesh in undertaking the construction of a canal taking off from the river Vansadhara called as flood flow canal at Katragada and failure of Govt. of Andhra Pradesh to implement the terms of inter-State agreement understanding etc. relating to use, distribution and control of waters of inter-State river Vansadhara and its valley. Basic contention of State of Orissa in the complaint is that the flood flow canal would result in drying up the existing river bed and consequent shifting of the river affecting ground water table. It has also raised the issue of scientific assessment of available water in Vansadhara at Katragada and Gotta Barrage and the basis for sharing the available water.
As per the provision of ISRWD Act, 1956, when any request under Section 3 is received from any State Government in respect of any water dispute and the Central Government is of opinion that the water dispute cannot be settled by negotiations, the Central government shall, within a period of not exceeding one year from the date of receipt of such request, by notification in the Official Gazette, constitute a Water Disputes Tribunal for the adjudication of the water dispute. Accordingly, Secretary (WR) convened an inter-State meeting on 24.4.2006 at New Delhi to explore the possibility of finding out negotiated settlement of the dispute. In the meeting, both the States agreed that yield of the river is to be shared between Orissa and Andhra Pradesh on 50 – 50 basis. Both States also agreed that CWC will reassess the yield of the Vansadhara basin by utilizing the yield series upto 2005 for which necessary utilization data shall be furnished by the concerned State Government expeditiously. Based on the conclusions reached in the meeting, Central Government is hopeful of finding the negotiated settlement of the dispute. The effect of flood flow canal on the river region is being investigated through a model study in CWPRS.
In continuation of this process, another inter-State meeting at the level of Addl. Secretary (WR) was convened on 5th -6th December, 2006 in which the follow-up action taken on the decision of the previous Inter-State meeting was reviewed. Further, Addl. Secretary (WR) convened another inter-State meeting on 2nd March, 2007 to review the follow-up action on the conclusions reached in the meeting taken by him on 5th & 6th December, 2006. In the meeting, Addl. Secretary (WR) felt that it may be appropriate to request Secretary (WR) to call another meeting at the level of Chief Secretaries of State of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh in view of the divergent position stated by officials of respective States in an explicit manner.
Meanwhile, the W.P.(C)No.443 of 2006 filed by State of Orissa came up for hearing before the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 30th April, 2007. The Hon’ble Supreme Court was requested to adjourn the matter for a longer time so that the Central Government can once again try for a negotiated settlement and, therefore, the matter was adjourned. In view of that Secretary (WR) proposed meeting with the Chief Secretaries on 18.5.06 which was rescheduled to 15.6.07 and again to 5.7.07 due to inability expressed by Chief Secretary, Govt. of Orissa to attend the same. However the meeting finally could not be held as Chief Secretary, Govt. of Orissa expressed inability to attend the same as no useful purpose will be served in holding the meeting till Govt. of Andhra Pradesh stops construction of the project.
Further, an interstate meeting was taken by Chairman, CWC with the officers of CWC, CWPRS, Pune, the State of A.P. and Orissa on 17.12.07 to discuss the model studies requested in this regard. Another meeting was held on 22.1.08 to firm up additional studies required.
In the hearing dated 6.2.2009, the Hon’ble Supreme Court directed Central Government to constitute a water dispute tribunal.
With the approval of the Cabinet (dated 25.06.2009) Ministry of Water Resources has constituted Vansadhara Water Dispute Tribunal (VWDT) vide Notification Dt.24.2.2010. The Tribunal has its Head-Quarters at New Delhi.
The complaint of the Government of Orissa is now referred to a Tribunal constituted under Section 4 of the Act.
Subsequently, in pursuance of the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 13.12.2013, the Central Govt. vide Notification no S.O 778 (E ) dated 14.3.2014 decided that the effective date of constitution of said tribunal shall be 17.9.12 for the purpose of computing period of three years for submission of report and decision by the Tribunal as per provisions of sub- section (2) of section 5 of ISRWD Act, 1956. Further, the Central Govt. vide notification dated 18.9.15 extended the period of submission of report and decision by the Tribunal for a further period of one year with effect from 17.9.2015. Subsequently, on request of the Tribunal, and as per proviso under Section 5(2) of the ISRWD Act, 1956, the Tribunal has been granted two extension of one year each viz. extension given for period of one year w.e.f. 17.09.2015 vide Notification No. S.O. 2581(E) dated 18.09.2015 and extension given for period of one year w.e.f. 17.09.2016 vide Notification No. S.O. 2971(E) dated 16.09.2016.
Hon’ble Tribunal delivered its judgement in the I.A. No. 1 of 2010 on 17th December,2013, allowing the Government of Andhra Pradesh to construct the Side Channel Weir along with the ancillary works as proposed and has, inter-alia, directed for constitution of a 3 member Supervisory Flow Management and Regulation Committee on River Vansadhara.
Govt. of Odisha has filed SLP No. 3392/2014 and stay application against interim order of VWDT dated 17.12.2013. Department of Legal Affairs was consulted in the matter on 15.09.2014 who inter alia advised that since, SLP and stay petition are sub-judice before Hon’ble Supreme Court, normally such step should be avoided by the Department which may hamper the result of the pending SLP in the Supreme Court.