A Madhya Pradesh minister on Saturday threatened not to release the Narmada water for the Sardar Sarovar dam unless the Gujarat government and the
Centre addressed its concerns about the dam-affected people.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said the Congress government in the neighbouring state should not politicize the issue, and both the governments are bound by the rulings of the Supreme Court and Narmada Control Authority (NCA).
Madhya Pradesh Minister for Narmada Valley Development Surendra Singh Baghel alleged that the Gujarat government was not holding the meetings of the NCA "seriously" for finding agreement on rehabilitation of the project-affected people.
Nor was it releasing water for power generation (a large chunk of power goes to Madhya Pradesh), he alleged.
"So we have decided, after giving a lot of thought to it, that unless Gujarat and Central governments decide on dam -affected people, we are not going to release water," Baghel said, speaking to reporters in Bhopal.
Rupani hit back, saying the threat showed "lack of information and understanding of the legality of the Supreme Court-appointed Narmada (Water Disputes) Tribunal".
"It is a political statement, it is unfortunate, and made with the bad intention to play politics on water.
"The states are bound by the judgment of the Supreme Court, and water distribution decision is taken by the Narmada Control Authority," the chief minister said.
"Displaced people have been rehabilitated from 2017 to date as per the order of the Supreme Court," Rupani said.
The Madhya Pradesh government suddenly raised the issue of displaced people with Gujarat chief secretary in a letter dated May 27, 2019, saying that 6,000 dam-affected families were yet to be relocated, he said.
The Resettlement and Rehabilitation sub-group of the NCA held a meeting on the issue on July 12, but no senior official of the MP government participated, Rupani alleged.
"They also boycotted a meeting of the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir Regulation Committee on July 18," he said.
"The MP government is questioning the neutrality of an autonomous body like NCA out of bad political intentions. For 42 years until 2024, no state can change the historic judgment of the tribunal. Threatening not to release Narmada water is not at all justified," the Gujarat chief minister said.
Baghel contended that MP government officials had to shun the NCA meeting "because they (Gujarat government and the Centre) are not taking us seriously".
"This is a rainy season. How do we release water when Gujarat is not releasing water (further downstream from the dam) and is not generating electricity too? If they do not release water, people will get affected by the dam (with the water level of reservoir rising)," the minister added.
"Gujarat should generate electricity. The solution is that they should consider the points we want to make," Baghel added.
The two hydel electricity generation plants at the dam have a capacity of 1,450 MW, which is shared by Madhya Pradesh (57 per cent), Maharashtra (27 per cent) and Gujarat (16 per cent).