Around this time last year, there was an air of optimism and hope as the sibling Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were preparing to shed their bitter baggage of the past and set a new template for cooperation.
The reason for this positive change was the blossoming friendship between AP’s new chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao, a veteran politician. Both had just won resounding mandate in their respective states and neutralised their common enemy N Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party.
The personal chemistry between the two leaders had become the toast of the local media and the air was thick with expectation that the new friendship would lead to resolution of the river water disputes between the two states, which seemed intractable till then.
However, the year-long political bonhomie between Jagan and KCR is all but over now. Bitterness has replaced bonhomie. Cordiality has given way for confrontation.
Bitter battle ahead
The Telugu states are now bracing for a fight over the Krishna river waters.
AP’s move to construct a lift irrigation project on the Krishna river and upgrade a head regulator canal system on the foreshore of Srisailam reservoir has triggered a bitter dispute.
This marks the end of the political honeymoon between KCR and Jagan who had earlier vowed to sort out all pending inter-state issues in an amicable manner.
The bone of contention between the two states is an order issued by the AP irrigation department on May 5, proposing to take up the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme at an estimated cost of ₹7,045 crore.
The scheme intends to draw and utilise 3 tmc of water per day from Srisailam reservoir on the Krishna river. As per the latest GO, the new schemes include construction of Rayalaseema lift scheme aimed at pumping three tmc of water from Sangameshwara into Srisailam Right Main Canal, upgradation of Pothireddypadu head regulator canal system to draw 80,000 cusecs of water from foreshore of Srisailam reservoir and other upgradation various works in existing canal system of Galeru-Nagari project to draw another 70,000 cusecs of water from Srisailam.
The move has raised the hackles of KCR, who vowed to wage a legal battle seeking justice for Telangana, the upper riparian state. His government has described the order as illegal, unilateral and against the spirit of the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014.
However, Andhra government justified the move, stating that the new schemes were well within the state’s rights. It also accused Telangana of constructing projects like Palamuru-Ranga Reddy lift scheme which was in violation of the Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal award.
Sense of betrayal
KCR, on the other hand, regretted that the Jagan Mohan Reddy government had taken a unilateral decision at a time when Telangana was extending a friendly hand to its neighbour.
He said river waters should be utilised for the benefit of farmers in both the states setting aside all the differences and disputes of the past.
“I have taken the initiative by saying there should not be any ego or water basin problems in utilizing the water. It is very painful that despite this, the AP government declared a new scheme without even consulting with the Telangana state to lift water from Srisailam project unilaterally. This dented the very spirit with which water should be utilised by the two states with mutual cooperation,” he said.
Dubbing the AP government’s move as highly objectionable, KCR asked his officials to file a complaint before the Krishna Water Management Board and also the apex council under the Union water resources ministry.
He also instructed the officials to approach the Supreme Court, if necessary.
KCR pointed out that the AP State Reorganization Act had clearly stipulated that if new irrigation projects are planned in AP or Telangana, they should get clearance from the apex committee.
“But the AP government did not get any such approval. Srisailam project is a combined project of both AP and Telangana and water from this project should be utilised by both the States and AP cannot construct new projects unilaterally,” he argued.
Andhra Pradesh irrigation minister P Anil Kumar, however, clarified to reporters that his government was proposing the new schemes only to utilise surplus waters of Krishna river and was not trespassing into the rights of Telangana.
“Because of the disputes between the two states in the past, more than 800 tmc of Krishna water had gone waste into the sea. We are only trying to utilise a part of it during the flood season,” he explained.
The ruling YSR Congress Party MLA Malladi Vishnu said it was Telangana government which had constructed new projects like Palamuru-Ranga Reddy lift irrigation scheme on Krishna waters without apex council approval.
“We are taking up projects well within our rights,” he asserted
Last year, both the chief ministers had proposed to take up a joint irrigation project to divert surplus Godavari waters to Krishna basin so as to bring in more area under irrigation. Both KCR and Jagan held a few rounds of talks, followed by official-level meetings.
The proposed lift irrigation scheme has provided ammunition to KCR’s rivals in his home state who accused him of striking a deal with Jagan at the cost of state’s interests.
The Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal (KWDT) has allotted 811 tmc water in the Krishna river for Andhra Pradesh and 299 tmc for Telangana.
The opposition Congress has given a Chalo Pothireddypadu call on June 2, coinciding with the Formation Day of Telangana to expose the alleged unholy alliance between the two chief ministers.