As leaders attack each other over Mhadei, people unite to stop diversion

By Sanjay Borkar

Panaji, May 21 (IANS): Mhadei issue could be exploited to derive political dividend in Goa, but vigilant citizens and environmentalist have come together in the coastal state to stop diversion of this river.

On Saturday, a large crowd gathered in capital city and created a human chain on Miramar beach. Many people are of opinion that political parties should not use this issue for their political gains, but should be serious to protect Mhadei, on which north and South Goa is dependent.

Interestingly, after Karnataka's assembly elections were over with Congress getting majority to form government, BJP in Goa expressed apprehension over the Mhadei river saying the detailed project report (DPR) of Karnataka approved by the Central Water Commission has posed a threat to the existence of this river.

Opposition parties had criticised BJP for not uttering a word over Mhadei issue during public meeting of Union Home Minister Amit Shah on April 16, in Goa.

Leader of Opposition Yuri Alemao had said that the silence of Amit Shah on Mhadei issue confirms that double engine governments have allowed the diversion of Mhadei to Karnataka to satisfy the thirst of farmers.

Congress leader had also attacked local leaders of BJP for not speaking on Mhadei issue. However, the state BJP unit in Goa on last Thursday held a meeting of the State Executive Committee, wherein the issue of Mhadei river was discussed.

"The Mhadei river is the lifeline of Goa. The Mhadei plains in Goa comprise an intricate system of wetlands, tidal marshy areas, cultivated paddy fields, Khazan lands, all intersected by canals, inland dykes, bays, lagoons and creeks," the saffron party said.

"The latest development, wherein the DPR of Karnataka pertaining to Mhadei river has been approved by the Central Water Commission, has posed a threat to the very existence of this river. This State Executive Committee strongly urges the state government to take all necessary steps to safeguard Goa's lawful rights and interest over the water of Mhadei river and reiterates its unflinching commitment and support to the state government in its fight to save Mhadei river," it added.

Both BJP and Congress in their manifestos for the elections in Karnataka had promised fulfillment of Mhadei project to cater to the needs of farmers.

Though BJP leaders, including Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had campaigned for party candidates in Karnataka, saffron party leaders from Goa had said that they will not allow diversion of Mhadei river.

A month ago, Goa BJP President Sadanand Shet Tanavade had said that they will issue a statement even to the Karnataka media that the state government will not compromise on the Mhadei river issue.

Tanavade said this when he was asked about Goa BJP leaders campaigning for Karnataka's Assembly election.

He added that in no circumstances would the state government compromise on the Mhadei issue.

"The Goa government will not compromise anything on Mhadei, whatever legal battle is to be fought, we will fight it," Tanavade said.

"Even when we go there, if the Karnataka media questions us (Goa BJP leaders) on the Mhadei issue, we will make the statement that the government will not compromise on this issue, we have the guts (to make a statement)," he added.

In January, during a rally in Belagavi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said: "Today, I am here to tell you that the BJP at the Centre has resolved the long dispute between Goa and Karnataka over Mhadei and allowed the diversion of the river to Karnataka to satisfy the thirst of farmers of many districts."

Reacting to the apprehension expressed by the BJP over the Mhadei river issue, Leader of Opposition Yuri Alemao on Friday said if the party is serious about the matter, then it should pressure its 'Trouble Engine in Delhi' to withdraw the approval given to the DPR of Kalsa Bhanduri Project.

"If the BJP in Goa is serious, it should pressurise its Trouble Engine in Delhi to withdraw the approval given to the DPR of Kalsa Bhanduri project and maintain status-quo," Alemao said.

He said that the BJP Executive Committees resolution is completely political and lacks sincerity.

Goa and Karnataka are currently involved in a dispute over the Kalasa-Bhanduri dam project across the water of Mhadei river at a central tribunal.



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