The Union government notification gives the Krishna and Godavari River Management Boards control over the operations and maintenance of irrigation projects in both the basins.

A representative image of the maps of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh divided over Krishna river
news Krishna Water Row Saturday, July 17, 2021 - 15:09

The Union government notification on the jurisdictions of the Godavari and the Krishna river management boards issued on Thursday, July 15 has left the Telangana government fuming. State Finance Minister T Harish Rao reacted strongly to the notification, calling the move an encroachment on the rights of Telangana. Andhra Pradesh on the other hand has welcomed the notification, while noting that a few changes are desired. With the gazette notification issued on Thursday, the Krishna and Godavari River Management Boards (KRMB and GRMB) will have control over the operations and maintenance of irrigation projects in both Krishna and Godavari basins, with effect from October 14, 2021.

Harish Rao, the Telangana Finance Minister came down harshly on the Union Government's notification through an Op-Ed in the Times of India, stating that irrigation is a state subject and not in the concurrent list. “The actions of the Jal Shakti Ministry by declaring the jurisdictions of KRMB and GRMB and taking over all the major and medium irrigation projects are nothing but encroaching upon the powers of Telangana …The Union government cannot take over all the powers of the state,” he wrote. The minister called the move an injustice to Telangana and said the state should be consulted before finalising the jurisdiction. The minister said Telangana withdrew its case in the Supreme Court over the issue in October 2020 based on assurances given by the Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. 

Read: Explained: The Krishna and Godavari water wars between Telangana and Andhra

On the other hand, the Andhra Pradesh government has welcomed the notification. The state had recently approached the Supreme Court on July 14 with a writ petition seeking directions to the Union government to notify KRMB jurisdiction under Section 87 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014. The state also had sought directions to KRMB to comply with the Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal (KWDT-I) decision until their jurisdiction is notified, reported Live Law. The petition also alleged that hydel power generation by Telangana was depleting water levels at the Srisailam dam, affecting Andhra’s water supply. 

The river water dispute between the two states was triggered last year when the Andhra Pradesh government sanctioned a few works under the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (RLIS) in May 2020, which the Telangana government has since termed as ‘illegal’. Since June 2021, the Andhra Pradesh government has objected to the Telangana government’s move to go ahead with hydel power generation at Nagarjuna Sagar and other projects contending that this was depriving Andhra Pradesh of its rightful share of water for drinking and irrigation purposes. The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government argues that this especially affects water in the four Rayalaseema districts, Nellore and Prakasam districts, and was even jeopardising the drinking water requirement of Chennai. Both states deployed security forces at the project sites amid rising tensions. 

Read: Krishna water dispute heats up, Andhra and Telangana deploy police at dams amid row

In a recent cabinet meeting, Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao had decided that the state would ignore Andhra’s objections and continue power generation. The Telangana cabinet declared that the KRMB has no right to stop the power generation and that there were no agreements between the two states on hydel power generation. Since then, the Andhra Pradesh government has sought intervention from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Jalshakti Minister Gajendra Shekhawat. Finally, on July 14, the Andhra Pradesh government moved the Supreme Court, arguing that with no progress in the notification of KRMB’s jurisdiction, Telangana’s actions were seriously affecting water supply to Andhra Pradesh. 

Reacting to the Union government's notification, J Syamala Rao, the Andhra Pradesh Principal Secretary of Irrigation Department, said on Friday that Telangana has carried out power generation independently for the last 45 days, without KRMB orders. Syamala Rao claimed that since June 1, the Telangana government had used 66 TMC of water for power generation inspite of objections from Andhra Pradesh and from KRMB. 

Noting that a few changes were desired in the Union government’s notification, Syamala Rao said that these matters would be discussed with the Union government. Some of the issues pointed out by Andhra Pradesh include the ‘unapproved’ status of Veligonda project possibly due to a spelling error, setting up the KRMB office in Andhra Pradesh, and the inclusion of certain projects unrelated to Telangana in the jurisdiction of the river management boards. 

Watch TNM's Explainer on the Krishna river water sharing dispute between Telangana and Andhra

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