The Supreme Court on Wednesday adjourned the final hearing in the appeal preferred by State of Odisha challenging the order passed by Vansadhara Water Disputes Tribunal wherein the tribunal had allowed the State of Andhra Pradesh to construct Neradi Barrage on river Vansadhara and directed the state of Odisha to acquire 106acres of land and hand it over to AP for construction for a span of one year.
The Bench comprising of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Vikram Nath permitted the State of Odisha to file an application for the production of additional documents under Order 21 Rule 3(d)(ii) of Supreme Court Rules, 2013 explaining why the documents were not produced earlier before the tribunal.
Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium appearing on behalf of State of Odisha submitted that they have found some relevant documents, out of which 5 are written by State of Andhra Pradesh. I want to point out why these applications are filed, there are two aspects in finding record in the water dispute tribunal in the case the first is was there an agreement about the extent of land which should be submerged? According to the appellant the tribunal has made a serious error. The second is where is this 3kms going to be counted from it is going to be from the barrage or is it going to be 3km from the commencement of the end of the wall. Now both these are points where the tribunal has decided against my client and these documents which is 6 of them one by the Union Minister but the other 5 documents written by AP. In our view they have corroborate sufficiently, the point which have been urging before the tribunal that the total area which was agreed to be submerged is only 106 acres in the state of Orissa and the second is that the computation of distance of 3kms must be from the barrage upstream. It is only for this reason, they can’t be said irrelevant as such but yes it is the matter of some regret but that’s on govt that they have to actually dig out .. all these records are from 1961. Let me open the case.
On the other hand, Senior Advocate CS Vaidyanathan appearing on behalf State of Andhra Pradesh opposed and submitted that
“In 2010, the tribunal was constituted the award is 2017 and the SLP was filed in 2018 we are now in 2022. So many years have passed, surely the apex court can be taken so lightly by any litigant. It is most unfortunate that the matter appearing for final hearing from the last 7-8months. It is strange that it is that they have not prepared, if they are insisting upon the application then I will have to file response.”
The bench states,
“We want to cut short the delay as these are old matter. Senior counsel CS Vaidyanath states that the respondent would respond to the said application within a period of 2weeks and would also without prejudice a compilation of documents.”
The Vansadhara Water Dispute Tribunal was constituted in February 2010 to resolve the river water sharing dispute between Andhra Pradesh and Odisha over the construction of the said barrage. The State of Andhra proposed Neradi Barrage project (total length 700metres) to be constructed with the intention of providing irrigation facility particularly to 203 villages, covering an area of 1,07,280acres of land in Srikakulam District.
The Odisha government opposed the Neradi Barrage project on the ground that the construction would leave hundreds of acres of many farmlands submerged. Odisha says the construction of project will submerge the flood prone areas to which the AP Government assured that 20acres will be used to build flood protection during the construction.
The river Vansadhara, 265kms long originates from Kalahandi district of Odisha and joins Bay of Bengal at Kalingapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.
In 1956, both the states government had arrived into an agreement to share Vansadhara river water in the ratio of 50:50. The AP government constructed barrage namely Gotta Barage in 1977 under phase 1 and under phase 2 Neradi Barrage was proposed when the dispute between the states had arisen. Another canal, Katraguda is constructed without taking the approval of either CWC or the Forest and Environment Ministry of Govt. of India.
State of Odisha submitted that a few villages are situated on the bank of the river Vansadhara basin which occupies 8015 kms in Odisha and remaining 2815 kms lies in Andhra Pradesh and about 18 villages are dependent on the water of whereas there are few other villages on the Western side of the river within the territory of Andhra Pradesh which are also stated to be dependent on the water of Vansadhara for the agricultural purposes and also for drinking purposes.
The tribunal made local inspections twice at location where the Neradi Barrage is proposed to be constructed in order to understand the local conditions of Vansadhara river and its river valley and also to have a first hand information about all other factors like physical, topographical and ecological condition. The Tribunal also visited Central Water Power Research Station (CWPRS), Pune to inspect the physical models of Neradi Barrage and Side Weir.
The dispute lasted for over 5 decades as the several attempts were made by the states to resolve the issue.
Article 262 of the Indian Constitution talks about the adjudication of disputes regarding waters of the inter-state rivers which empowers the parliament to provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution or control of the waters of, or in, any inter-State river or river valley. The parliament can appoint a tribunal to adjudicate the matter between the parties involved, in case of no agreement.
In the year 2006, the state of Odisha filed a complaint to Central Government against the State of Andhra Pradesh under section 3 of Inter-state river Water Disputes Act, 1956 demanding to set up a tribunal to adjudicate for the Vansadhara river. State of Odisha had raised broadly three concerns, one the construction of the project will dry the existing river bed and will impact the ground water table, second the government of Andhra Pradesh failed to implement the provisions of the inter-state agreement and third Odisha demanded scientific assessment of available water at Katragada and Gotta barrage.
The tribunal after considering all the submissions made by both the states, permitted the state of Andhra Pradesh to construct Neradi barrage with 115 TMC ft. water which is to be divided in equal proportions between the two states. The tribunal directed the state of Odisha to acquire 106acres of land and hand it over to AP for construction for a span of one year and Adnra Pradesh to compensate the state of Odisha.
The matter is further listed after 4weeks.