Earlier this month, the police forces of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were caught in a tense standoff at the common reservoirs of both states because of the ongoing jal jagadam – a fight over water resources.
During the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam controversy in 2015, police in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh came to blows after a heated discussion between government officials. The politics over the Krishna river water sharing remains a defining issue between the two state administrations, despite improved relations after Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy became chief minister in 2019.
The bitter water-sharing dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana took on a new dimension on July 16. Both states want to use the water from the Krishna river for irrigation and hydropower. The Ministry of Jal Shakti under the union government has ordered that the management and control of irrigation projects on the Krishna and Godavari rivers will be transferred from the states to the respective river management boards starting mid-October.
According to India Today, despite the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh that took place in 2014 and the carving out of Telangana, how river waters will be managed and shared between the two states has never been resolved.
What Is The Cause Of The Recent Dispute?
Andhra Pradesh has alleged that Telangana has taken water from the Krishna for hydropower generation without permission from the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB), an institution set up after the state’s bifurcation to manage and regulate the Krishna basin waters. While farmers in the Krishna delta ayacut are yet to sow the Kharif crop, the Andhra administration alleges that the water being used to generate electricity is being wasted by being released into the Bay of Bengal.
Telangana intends to continue developing hydropower to fulfil its power demands, reports the Indian Express. It has aggressively opposed the Andhra Pradesh government’s irrigation projects, particularly the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Project (RLIP), which it argues is unlawful. Telangana’s government intends to split the Krishna river waters equally.
In the wake of Telangana’s separation from Andhra Pradesh, the two states have agreed to split the water proportion at a 34:66 ratio respectively, until the final distribution is decided by the Krishna Water Disputes Tribunal-2. The undivided state had been allocated 811 TMC (thousand million cubic feet) of water, of which Andhra Pradesh now receives 512 TMC and Telangana receives 299 TMC.
Telangana’s Hydel Project
According to the Indian Express, the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation project which was inaugurated in 2019 to draw water from the Godavari river requires enormous amounts of power. Telangana says it also needs hydropower for its Nettempadu, Bheema, Koilsagar and Kalwakurthy lift irrigation projects. Andhra Pradesh cited it’s disapproval, but Telangana, under its chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR), decided to use all hydel power stations at full capacity.
Hydropower is cheap and less taxing on the state’s budget. Telangana’s government has been accused of unilaterally deciding to go ahead with hydel power generation at Srisailam, Pulichintala, and Nagarjuna Sagar. The Telangana government has claimed that the Andhra Pradesh government is building an illegal project on the Krishna river, which would adversely affect the interests of the state.
When Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy became the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, the chemistry between the two CMs left all awestruck. KCR invited Reddy along with his family for lunch at Pragati Bhavan, and both the leaders had marathon discussions that later ended in them praising each other. Reddy had stated in the assembly that KCR was a man of great magnanimity. Both declared that all the contentious issues between the two Telugu speaking states, especially the water disputes, would be solved across the table.
This was in sharp contrast to the frosty relationship between KCR and Reddy’s predecessor N. Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP, notes the Hans India. At a time when Telangana was extending a friendly hand to Andhra Pradesh, KCR regrets that the Andhra Pradesh government made a unilateral decision to build the Rayalaseema project. He said that river waters should be utilised for the benefit of farmers in both states, setting aside historical disagreements and differences. Both states engaged in a war of words, and ministers of each state made personal attacks against each other, including statements against the former chief minister, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. In response, Andhra Pradesh minister Botsa Satyanarayana said that Telangana leaders would be taught a lesson if they made such remarks for political gain.
During the reorganisation of Andhra Pradesh, 299 TMC of water was allocated to Telangana. Despite having the right to use more than 299 TMC of water, the new state claims it is following instructions and exercising maximum restraint. According to the official order, Andhra Pradesh cannot use more than 512 TMC of water per year, but has used about 620 TMC thus far. Telangana has been limited to using only 50 TMC due to a lack of storage resources. Accordingly, they are of the view that Andhra Pradesh’s objections regarding the ongoing irrigation projects on the Krishna river are unjustified. In addition, the ongoing projects were sanctioned during the existence of an undivided Andhra Pradesh and have now been redesigned to fit the requirements of the new state. As per reports by the Hans India, Telangana has also accused the KRMB of being partial to Andhra Pradesh.
Officials from Andhra Pradesh claim that the state is at a disadvantage since it is a riparian zone. They have accused Telangana of drawing excess water from Krishna, and the illegal construction of the Palamuru Rangareddy Lift Irrigation Scheme, Dindi Lift Irrigation Scheme, Bhakta Ramadasu Lift Irrigation Scheme, Water Grid Project took up under Mission Bhagiratha, Thummilla Lift Irrigation Scheme, enhancing the scope of the Mahatma Gandhi Kalwakurthy Lift Irrigation Scheme (MGKLIS) and the Nettempadu Lift Irrigation Scheme on the Krishna along with nine projects on the Godavari river.
Reddy’s sister, Y.S. Sharmila, who is launching her political party in Telangana, initially remained silent, but later declared that as Telangana’s daughter-in-law she would fight for its rights.
As a result of this growing dispute over water distribution, opposition parties, including the BJP and Congress in Telangana, and the TDP and Congress in Andhra Pradesh, are claiming that it is a diversionary tactic used by both parties to win elections. They have alleged that both KCR and Reddy are working hand-in-glove on the matter and are misleading the public.
The KRMB and the Godavari River Management Board (GRMB) will be creating 36 projects over the Krishna basin and 71 over the Godavari basin starting October 14, The organisations, both of which were established in 2014 for the administration, regulation, maintenance, and operation of the projects on the two river basins, have instructed both states to pay ₹200 crores each for operational and maintenance costs every year, as per India Today.
The move was welcomed by Andhra Pradesh, however, Telangana is expected to challenge it. In order to bring the projects under the control of the boards, Telangana CM KCR requested that the Centre determine its share of the Krishna waters. Telangana uses water from the Srisailam Left Bank Canal project on the Krishna, located on the state’s border with Andhra Pradesh, for irrigation. Andhra Pradesh, in turn, has developed the Rajolibanda Diversion Scheme to retrieve water from the right bank of the Krishna, despite the KRMB warning both states not to do so. The two states have failed to obtain the necessary permissions before launching irrigation projects in the two river basins.
For completed projects as well as those in progress, the Jal Shakti ministry has requested that all work cease immediately and that all clearances be acquired within six months. Furthermore, the board has cautioned the states against moving ahead with any projects without approval from the KRMB, GRMB, Central Water Commission and other agencies.
Of the roughly dozen projects that remain unapproved in each state, Andhra Pradesh’s management boards have received details of five projects related to the Krishna and two related to the Godavari. Conversely, according to India Today, Telangana has not submitted any and has reportedly launched several projects instead.
Irrigation projects in the state are heavily dependent on loans and the state has set up separate corporations to secure and negotiate loan agreements with banks. These irrigation projects are financed by the central government-owned Power Finance Corporation, Rural Electrification Corporation, and several commercial banks.
In the years to come, state governments will have no involvement at all in this situation. Therefore, both sides can use the water disputes only to advance their own political agendas, as they will have no decision making control.