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  1. Bengaluru bandh on Jan 25, Feb 4: How Mahadayi river dispute is making poll-bound Karnataka tense

Bengaluru bandh on Jan 25, Feb 4: How Mahadayi river dispute is making poll-bound Karnataka tense

Mandovi (Mahadayi) river water dispute: In the coming days, poll-bound state of Karnataka will witness two bandhs called by the Federation of pro-Kannada organizations.

By: | Bengaluru | Published: January 22, 2018 5:05 PM
mahaday river row protest ahadayi river water dispute: Farmers protesting opposite BJP office on Mahadayi issue in Karnataka. (File photo/source Twitter/@Dinesh Gundu Rao)

Mandovi (Mahadayi) river water dispute: In the coming days, poll-bound state of Karnataka will witness two bandhs called by the Federation of pro-Kannada organizations. While the first bandh has been called on January 25 all across Karnataka, another bandh has been called on February 4 in Bengaluru to make it coincide with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arrival to the city. As per reports, the decision to call two bandhs within a span of 10 days was taken during a meeting of several pro-Kannada organizations and Kalasa-Banduri agitation committee. The protesters are demanding PM Modi’s intervention for the resolution of the Kalasa-Banduri and Mahadayi river disputes.

According to a report by Deccan Herald, the pro-Kannada organizations had already decided to call the bandh on January 25 from 6.00 am to 6.00 and called the press to announce the same. However, there were disagreements between the pro-Kannada organizations and Kalasa-Banduri agitation committee, which wanted the bandh to be postponed to February 4 to make it coincide with Modi’s visit to the poll-bound state.

Apparently upset with the unilateral decision of Kannada groups to call the bandh on January 25, the Kalasa-Banduri agitation committee called a separate bandh in Bengaluru on February 4 to draw Modi’s attention to their issue. Kannada leader Vatal Nagaraj has said Kannada activists have also called for February 4 bandh if January 25 strike fails to get Centre’s attention.

Political parties have so far not openly supported the twin bandhs.

In the run-up to the Assembly elections in Karnataka, Mahadayi river water dispute threatens could become the most talked about the issue as it has been pending for over 30 years. And as the poll days come near, activists believe this could be the best opportunity for the resolution of the river disputes.

A bandh over the issue was also called last month. Life in as many as five north Karnataka districts was hit by the bandh called by farmer groups for getting Mahadaryi river water from Goa to meet the water requirement of the drought-prone region. During the last bandh, leaders of ‘Mahadayi Kalasa Banduri Nala Horata Samanvaya Samiti’ had termed it a “warning bell” for the state and Centre.

What is the Mahadayi river dispute all about

The Mahadayi, which is also called Mandovi in Goa, has its origin in Karnataka but also flows to Goa and Maharashtra. For the last 30 years, states of Karnataka, Goa, and Maharashtra have been locked in a protracted dispute over water sharing. First negotiations to settle the dispute among the states were started by the Centre in 1985.

The dispute has acquired political colors with a group of protesters demanding BJP state chief B S Yeddyurappa to resolve the issue as promised by him earlier.

Yeddyurappa, who is eying a comeback in the state as the CM, had earlier promised he would get a written agreement signed by December 15 for resolving the issue between the two states – Karnataka and Goa. Last month, the Karnataka BJP chief had also tried to convince farmers to end their stir citing the letter written to him by Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar but failed.

Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah-led Congress government, which aims to retain power in the upcoming polls, has accused BJP state unit of not neglecting the issue.

In 2002, the then state government led by SM Krishna had decided to start the pending drinking water project by building two canals across the tributaries of Mahadayi-Kalsa and Banduri rivers. The projected required diversion of 7.56 TMC of water from Mahadayi to Malaprabha river in Karnataka to address the water crisis in parched north Karnataka districts of Belagavi, Dharwad and Gadag.

The project was then opposed by Manohar Parrikar government of Goa on the grounds that it would cause a huge ecological imbalance in Western Ghats regions of Goa. The project was later stalled by NDA government at the Centre after it had initially okayed it.

One doesn’t know for sure when the dispute will end. But one similarity is striking beteen 2002 and 2012 – back then also BJP was ruling in Goa and at the Centre, while Congress was ruling the state – just as now.

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