After a string of demonstrations against the presence of Union Environment and Forests Minister that marred the inaugural session of the 50th edition of IFFI on November 20, the Congress warned Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to ensure that Prakash Javadekar didn't return for the festival's closing gala, until he withdrew the letter granting nod to Karnataka's Kalasa-Banduri dam project.
"We again warn the Chief Minister to make sure that Javadekar doesn't come to Goa till the environmental clearance given for the Kalsa-Banduri project is withdrawn," Chodankar said here on Sunday.
Three persons were arrested for raising anti-Javadekar slogans, while the Opposition workers staged a demonstration with placards saying, 'Go Back Javadekar', who also holds the Information and Broadcasting portfolio, outside the venue screening films for the 50th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
The protests were organised after Javadekar last week turned down the Goa government's request for withdrawal of the MoEF letter, issued last month giving the Karnataka government go-ahead for the Rs 841 crore Kalasa-Banduri project.
The project aims to divert water from the Mhadei river to the water-deficit basin of the Malaprabha river, ostensibly for drinking water purposes.
The request for withdrawal of the MoEF clearance was made by an all-party delegation, led by Sawant, on November 4. Sawant has maintained the project would wreak "ecological catastrophe" in Goa.
"The Minister will face severe public protests if he tries to be adventurous and visit the IFFI-2019 closing ceremony," Chodankar said.
Chodankar said the BJP-led governments in Karnataka, Goa and the Centre were trying to use the Mhadei river and Goa as a pawn to win the upcoming Karnataka Assembly by-elections. "They are only using the Mhadei issue to fool Kannadiga voters with an eye on the by-elections," Chodankar said.
The Mhadei river originates in Karnataka and meets the Arabian Sea near Panaji in Goa, while briefly flowing through Maharashtra.
An inter-state water disputes tribunal, set up by the central government, after hearing the over two-decade-old row between Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra in August 2018 allotted 13.42 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) (including 3.9 TMC for diversion into the depleted Malaprabha river basin) to Karnataka and 1.33 TMC to Maharashtra.