Home Water Resources Tribunal Seeks LiDAR Data

Tribunal Seeks LiDAR Data

Bhubaneswar: The Mahanadi Water Disputes Tribunal on Saturday directed the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) to furnish LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data for the remaining area of Mahanadi river within two weeks.

The Tribunal comprises Chairman A M Khanwilkar and Members Ravi Ranjan and Indermeet Kaur Kochhar heard the counsel of Odisha and Chhattisgarh on Saturday and passed an order.

During the hearing, on the request of Chhattisgarh, the Tribunal directed the NRSC to make available the LiDAR data. If it is not possible to do so, must provide specific reason(s) as to why such data cannot be made available so that the matter before the Tribunal can proceed on that basis, the court said.

Odisha, on the other hand, submitted that even in absence of further LiDAR data the assessors are free to formulate the delineation mechanism and proceed on the basis of conventional data and submit a report to the Tribunal.

“We appreciate the stand taken by the State parties. We cannot keep on waiting for further data indefinitely. Instead, we would direct the assessors to continue with the analysis of the information for the purpose of delineation,” the court ordered.

Both the States have assured to cooperate with the assessors to enable them to take follow up steps in the light of the observations made in the previous orders including the comments made in joint meeting held on March 22, 2023.

The Tribunal and a technical team will make a field in two stretches commencing from the upper part of the basin in Chhattisgarh and the second stretch from the lower part in Chhattisgarh.

The first stretch of visit will be conducted between April 18 and April 22, 2023 while the second stretch would commence from April 29 and conclude on May 3, 2023.

Further details of the agreed visit plan will be submitted to the Registrar within one week from today.

Meanwhile, the State of Maharashtra has submitted an affidavit as directed by the Tribunal. Odisha and Chhattisgarh have no objection to the affidavit.

Meanwhile, politics over the dispute again bake to fore in the State.

Fomer Minister Water Resources, Bijoy Mohapatra said that the water flow to Hirakud Dam has been drastically reduced in a week.

The water level of Hirakud dam today stands at 616.69ft against 621.51ft in the same period last year. It shows that there is a drop of 5ft in the water level in Hirakud and one can easily imagine the situation during peak summer months, he said.

“The water level of Hirakud dam dropped by 1ft in just four days in the month of March, which has never happened in our history,” Shri Mohapatra said.

If the water flow into the dam continues this trend, the water level will go down to dead storage level, which will affect power generation, water supply and irrigation. Even, capital city Bhubaneswar may witness water scarcity, if no timely action will be taken, he warned.

He slammed the Odisha Government for its lackadaisical attitude on the demand for construction of multiple barrages in the downstream of Mahanadi.

“The tribunal should be boycotted. They will only demarcate the boundaries. We have to find out ways to salvage the situation,” he suggested.

BJP Chief Whip Mohan Majhi blamed the BJD Government on this issue and said, “When the Central Government initiated mutual talks among Odisha and Chhattisgarh, it was the State Government, who boycotted the meeting in the middle and demanded for the constitution of the Tribunal. Now, the matter is being delayed.”     

Similarly, senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra said he has moved a motion for a special discussion on the Mahanadi issue. He urged Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to participate in discussion in the Assembly.  

He said that the State Government is indulging in propaganda with no real development at the ground level.

“Two Committees were set up under the chairmanship of the CM and the Speaker. No meeting was ever convened. The state government is not taking the Opposition into confidence for which it is failing,” he alleged.

Commenting on this issue, senior BJD Lawmaker Soumya Ranjan Patnaik said, “Despite locking horns with neighbouring States, we should make efforts to get water as per our rights. We should also take steps for proper utilisation of the water being drained to sea.”

Notably, the Centre had recently extended the tenure of the tribunal for another 21 months till December 24, 2024. This was the second extension given to the tribunal which was constituted on March 12, 2018.