Release water from Koyna & Tata dams to drought hit Karnataka, Telangana & Andhra Pradesh
Large parts of South India, including parts of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are facing unprecedented drought and water scarcity. However, Maharashtra is sending OUT billions of liters of water FROM drought hit Krishna basin to High Rainfall Konkan region to flow to the sea.
In the Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh parts of Krishna basin, the farmers are suffering crop losses, groundwater levels are hugely depleted and polluted, people do not have drinking water on regular basis and lakhs of people are suffering severe hardship, as also are the rivers and environment. Storage in Krishna basin reservoirs is practically nil in these states[i]. Normal economic activities are not possible. However, the water that belongs to the Krishna basin, that can reduce this suffering to huge extent, is being taken away. How can this go on? This is in complete violation of National Water Policy (NWP) priorities, in complete violation of the Draft Water Framework law that Govt of India has formulated, but no action is being taken by anyone, including judiciary.
Billions of liters of water, over which drought hit people should have the first right, is being diverted solely for power generation. This is totally unacceptable and must be immediately stopped. The water from the Koyna and Tata dams should be released for the drought hit areas. This should be possible without great difficulty since India is currently power surplus and thermal power projects are not generating power for lack of demand.
As on April 27, 2017 (the latest date for which data is available on Maharashtra Water Resources website[ii]), Koyna has 682 Million Cubic Meters of water and Tata dams have 310 MCM of water, both in live storages. This close to 1 billion Cubic Meters of water should now be reserved for release to the downstream drought prone areas and not be diverted to Konkan area for power generation. It will not only help parts of Maharashtra areas downstream from the dams, but it will also help the realy drought prone areas in Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
SANDRP has written several times on this issue in the past four years[iii], including to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra[iv], the Prime Minister[v], to the Tata Group[vi] and also to Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority. In May 2016, the Mumbai High Court made it clear[vii] that “Water is not a private property of some groups”, unfortunately none of these institutes have taken any effective steps or formulated any policy or mechanism to curb this criminal diversion of water when the people, river and the ecology that should have the first right over this water are suffering as they do now.
This year, since Nov 1, 2016 to April 28, 2017 (the date for which power generation figures are available on Maharashtra Load Dispatch Centre Website[viii]), Koyna dam has already generated 2121.83 Million Units (MU) and Tata Dams have generated 737.89 MU of power. As per KWDT award, Tata dams annually use 1413 MCM and Koyna annually uses 1911 MCM water for 90% dependable generation figures of 1249 MU and 2975 MU respectively. On pro rata basis, Tata and Koyna dams have diverted about 734 MCM and 1363 MCM water respectively from Nov 1, 2016 to April 28, 2017. This close to 2 BCM of water could have been stopped from being taken out of Krishna basin if the authorities had woken up in time.
Considering that by Nov 1 we knew about the drought situation in downstream Krishna basin, a decision could have been taken to stop or curtail such water diversions and give priority to drought prone areas’s water needs as required under NWP and also humanitarian grounds. Unfortunately, no decision was taken on Nov 1, 2016 and none is even under consideration even today.
India’s National Water Policy and Draft National Framework Law seems like toothless and non serious documents.
It is high time that at least in such severe drought conditions, the criminal diversion of water that belongs to the drought hit river basin is stopped. Everyone from Prime Minister to Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh needs to urgently act. In fact, we also hope the judiciary also immediately steps in and media also highlights this issue on consistent basis if we are to have any basic norms of justice, fairness, principles and sense of priority in water use.
[i] As per the latest weekly Reservoir Bulletin from Central Water Commission (see: http://126.96.36.199:83/DocumentUploadRoot/DocumentId_8644/27.04.2017_CWC_BULL.pdf), Almatti and Nagarjunsagar are below Minimum Draw Down Level, Tungabhadra has just 46 MCM, Narayanpur 125 MCM and Srisailam has 534 MCM.
[vi] https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/tata-power-responds-on-the-issue-of-tata-dams-diverting-water-from-drought-hit-bhima-krishna-basin-to-konkan-but-it-is-vacuous-insensitive-response/, https://sandrp.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/open-letter-to-tata-sustainability-group-to-stop-westward-diversion-of-bhima-basin-water-by-tata-hydro-projects/