(Photo above: Koyna Dam)
Large parts of Krishna basin spanning Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are facing massive rainfall deficits, drought like conditions and crop failures. The tail-end reservoirs of Srisailam and Nagarjun Sagar are almost empty. Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are already thinking of conserving the available water for drinking water. They are not even thinking of releasing any water for saving the crops in delta farmers. In upstream Maharashtra itself, the Ujani dam has ZERO live storage and perennially dry Marathawada has the highest rainfall deficit. Shockingly, in this very period from July 1 to Aug 6, Maharashtra has diverted more than 350 Million Cubic Meters of water (at most conservative estimates) FROM this very Krishna and Bhima basins to the High Rainfall area of Konkan (it already has had 1467.1 mm rain till Aug 7, 2015) and down to the sea! If this diversion was stopped since July 1, when the signs of severe monsoon deficits in the three states were already there, this water would have been available to save crops in lakhs of acres in the river basin, and some of it would have also flowed to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and water may have been available for saving some crops. Even now these Koyna and Tata dams have 2535 MCM water in live storage that is reserved for diversion to Konkan and to sea, but wont be release for the failing crops across the basin. How can we continue such wasteful use of water in a water deficit basin, at the cost of livelihoods of lakhs of farmers? Even now it is necessary to URGENTLY review this situation and consider stopping diversion of water FROM Krishna basin to sea. This may save crops and livelihoods of lakhs of farmers.
Kharif crop planting across majority of Marathwada has failed due to lack of water availability. Lakhs of farmers are staring at crop loss even after double and at places triple sowing. Some parts of Marathwada are still deploying tankers for drinking water supply since last year.
Koyna and Tata Dams in Maharashtra The westward diversion of water from Krishna basin to Konkan and further to sea is happening through the four stage Koyna Dam with total installed capacity of 1920 MW. These projects, as per the daily reports of Maharashtra Load Despatch Centre, generated 237.47 Million Units (MU) of power between July 1 and Aug 6, 2015. As per Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal Award, Koyna is annually diverting 1911 MCM (Million Cubic Meters) of Water. So assuming proportionate diversion, Koyna project would have diverted 216.7 MCM during July 1 to Aug 6.
Similarly the three Tata Hydropower stations (Khopoli, Bhivpuri and Bhira) with total installed capacity of 297 MW generated 118.89 MU of power during July 1 to Aug 6, 2015 as per daily generation reports of Maharashtra Load Despatch Centre. As per KWDT award, Tata projects divert 1413 MCM of water annually, so in the period under review, they are likely to have diverted at least 136.64 MCM on pro rata calculations.
Available water These projects also have substantial water storage today. Koyna dam has 1948 MCM water, which is 69% of its capacity and Tata dams have 587 MCM water, which is 52% of their storage capacity, compared to Ujani dam, Srisailam Dam and Nagarjunsagar Dams, all of them have ZERO water in live storage. Ujani, Srisailam and Nagarjunsagar have ZERO storage in live capacity as per the latest CWC reservoir storage report. The collective amount of 2535 MCM of live storage water in Koyna and Tata dams can be easily released into the Bhima-Krishna basins that can benefit the whole of the River Basin, right till the tail end in Krishna Delta. This when the whole basin is facing severe water scarcity. We hope the Parliament should debate this question. Currently this massive quantity of 2535 MCM is stored for future diversions to sea via Konkan.
Why we can afford to forgo the loss of power now It is interesting to note that during this period from July 1 to Aug 6, 2015, wind power generation in Maharashtra was 1378.1 MU, almost three times the power generation from Koyna and Tata dams that would have been forgone if the diversion was stopped. Moreover, as it well known during this period, the power demand across the country was so low that the Plant Load Factor of Thermal Power projects have come close to 50% from peak of over 80%, NTPC is talking about poor off take of power and the cost of power at power exchanges have come down below 2.5 per unit, from 7.5 per unit a few years ago. All this indicates that this loss of power could have been compensated, but there is no way to compensate the losses due to loss of water for the farmers.
We have raised this question earlier too. It is high time that we review this mindless practice of diverting water from a known water deficit situation, at least in such severe drought like situations and consider stopping this diversion when country’s power situation allows us to forgo the power loss from stoppage of diversion.
Even as we write this, the Koyna and Tata dams have 2535 MCM of water, reserved for release to the Konkan, even as farmers throughout the Krishna basin see the crops suffer in front of them for lack of water. But the crops wont get the life saving water from the Krishna basin. Is this fair?
We hope in the interest of lakhs of farmers Maharashtra government will urgently review this situation and stop this mindless diversion of water from the water deficit river basin to sea. At least let us have a public debate on this.
Himanshu Thakkar and Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP
NB: Bhima is a sub basin of Krishna basin, but we have mentioned it separately in the title since they are separate basins in Maharashtra, both Bhima and Krishna originate in Maharashtra, Bhima confluences with Krishna downstream, beyond the border of Maharashtra.
This article contains many maps from India-WRIS WebGIS project, for details, see: http://www.india-wris.nrsc.gov.in/wris.html
 As per the latest daily water storage position report of Maharashtra Water Resources Department: https://wrd.maharashtra.gov.in/niku/app?action=union.viewODFFile&fileId=9073807&odf_pk=5279000&objectType=mw_dam_storages&RhXm0r7tSeUqEr=true