The Union Ministry for Environment and Forests has rejected Goa government's demand seeking withdrawal of a letter issued by the central ministry giving a go ahead to Karnataka's controversial water diversion project at Kalasa-Banduri across the Mhadei river.
In a letter addressed to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant dated November 18 and released to the media on Tuesday, Environment and Forests Minister (MoEF) Prakash Javadekar has instead agreed to form a committee to look into the issue in detail.
"This is in reference to your Memorandum dated November 4 regarding the Kalasa-Bhandara project of Karnataka. It is informed through your memorandum that the proposal submitted to the ministry is more than a drinking water project and thus requires to be reviewed in detail by the ministry," the letter to Sawant said.
"In this connection, a committee is being constituted to look into the issues raised in detail," Javadekar also said in his communication.
The development comes at a time when the Opposition has been taunting Sawant, accusing him of not having enough clout with the BJP-led central government to pursue Goa's demands aggressively vis a vis the Kalasa-Banduri water diversion project, which the state government claims would have a devastating effect in Goa.
Reacting to Javadekar's letter, Sawant said: "I am happy that MoEF has taken due cognisance of the representation submitted by an all party delegation and as stated in the letter, has constituted a committee to examine the issue. I am confident that the committee will soon deliberate and safeguard Goa's interest with a favourable decision".
On November 4, Sawant led an all party delegation to the national capital to meet Javadekar and urged the latter to withdraw his ministry's green nod to the Rs 841 crore worth Kalasa-Banduri project, claiming the matter was sub-judice and that the diversion of water from the Mhadei basin would wreck havoc in Goa.
The Mhadei river originates in Karnataka and meets the Arabian Sea in Panaji in Goa, while briefly flowing through Maharashtra.
An interstate water disputes tribunal, set up by the central government, after hearing the over two-decade-old dispute among Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra over Mhadei river water sharing, had given a solution in August 2018. It had allotted 13.42 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) from the Mhadei river basin (including 3.9 TMC for diversion into the depleted Malaprabha river basin) to Karnataka and Maharashtra was allotted 1.33 TMC.