As both states are battling the COVID-19 pandemic, the 'historical water war' between both the Telugu states took center stage with the CMs locking horns.

Andhra CM YS Jagan and Telangana CM KCR sharing a moment together in an official programme held by Governor OffficeFile image: Facebook/TelanganaCMO
news Water conflict Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 17:37

There were fair ties between Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) and his Andhra Pradesh counterpart YS Jagan Mohan Reddy from the time the latter was elected last year. But a row over sharing of waters of river Krishna that came to light earlier this week seems to have strained the cordial relationship between both the states. 

As both states are battling the COVID-19 pandemic, the 'historical water war' between both the Telugu states took center stage with the CMs locking horns.

The series of meetings between Telangana CM KCR and Andhra CM YS Jagan with their respective ministers and top water resources engineers, were focused around an amicable resolution of pending issues and sharing of Krishna and Godavari waters.

The controversy

The Krishna river runs along the border of the two states and has two main projects – the Srisailam dam, which is upstream and the Nagarjuna Sagar dam, which is downstream 

A recent Government Order (GO 203) by Jagan's government gave administrative sanction to build the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (RLIS) which includes upgradation of Pothireddypadu head regulator canal system and other projects worth over Rs 7,000 crore aimed at drawing an additional quantity of six to eight TMCs (thousand million cubic feet) of water per day from the Srisailam reservoir on the Krishna river. 

Irked by the move, KCR accused Jagan's government of going ahead "unilaterally" on Monday. A day later, the Telangana Irrigation department filed a complaint with the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB) alleging that the Andhra government decision was 'illegal' and violated the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014. The state even decided to go to the Supreme Court (SC) on the issue. 

The Telangana government alleged that Andhra has been clandestinely trying to lift 3 TMC waters through Pothireddypadu by constructing a project near Sangameshwara of Srisailam dam.

Jagan Mohan Reddy expressed his displeasure over Telangana's reaction and its complaint with KRMB. He responded that his state would not draw even a drop of water more than its allocated quota from the Srisailam project. Jagan also defended the move to widen Pothireddypadu canal to draw surplus floodwater. He said both states could draw from Srisailam only as per quota fixed by the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal and monitored by the KRMB.

Potireddypadu head regulator was a high point of dispute even from the days of then Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh YS Rajasekhara Reddy. Several projects over Krishna river became a hotbed for controversies. The state Reorganisation Act  2014 mandates that both state governments need to get consent or approval of an 'Apex Council' before they take up any project on the river.

The Council will have officials from both states and those from the Union Ministry of Water Resources. The Telangana government has alleged that Andhra has disregarded the agreement they had signed earlier.

While Telangana claims that the project will affect the state's interests and result in a loss in its share of Krishna water, Andhra states that they're only using water as per the share that is granted to them. 

What happens now? 

Both the states which are investing massive funds for irrigation and water resources development are caught up in the old fight that is among one of the causes which stirred-up the agitation for a separate Telangana. 

With the situation reaching KRMB, it is to be seen whether the Centre interferes and holds a meeting of the Apex Council to clear the issue between both the states. The sharing of Krishna waters between Telugu states is yet to be awarded by the Brijesh Kumar Tribunal, which also is responsible for allotment of water to states like Maharashtra through which the Krishna river also flows through. This could come up in the Supreme Court.