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Mahandi: Lifeline of Odisha and Chhattisgarh

Recently Union Cabinet approved the setting up of a Tribunal to settle a row between Odisha and Chhattisgarh on sharing the waters of the river Mahanadi. The Government of Odisha had moved the Supre Court in December, 2016, for an order asking Chhattisgarh to stop constrction of barrages upstream of Mahanadi.In this concern let’s know about the river Mahanadi.

Mahanadi ranks second to the Godavari among Penninsular rivers in respect of water potential. The Mahanadi originates in the Sihawa mountains in the Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh and terminates in the Bay of Bengal.

Drainage Basin

The total drainage basin of the river Mahanadi is 141, 589 sq. km. Out of which 75, 136 sq.km in Chhattisgarh, 65,580 sq. km in Odisha and very small proportion of 635 sqkm in Jharkhand and 238 sq.km in Maharashtra.

Total length of river is 851km out of which 494km flows in Odisha and 357km in Chhattisgarh.

Course of the Mahanadi

Like many other seasonal Indian rivers, the Mahanadi too is a combination of many mountain streams and thus its precise source is impossible to pinpoint. However its farthest headwaters lie 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) from Pharsiya village 442 metres (1,450 ft) above sea level south of sihawa town in Dhamtari district of Chhattisgarh. The hills here are an extension of the Eastern Ghats and are a source of many other streams which then go on to join the Mahanadi.

For the first 80 kilometres (50 mi) of its course, the Mahanadi flows in a northerly direction and drains the Raipur district and touches eastern portions of Raipur city. It is a rather narrow river at this stage and the total width of its valley does not exceed 500–600 metres.

After being joined by the Seonath, the river flows in an easterly direction through the remaining part of its journey. It is joined by the Jonk and Hasdeo rivers here before entering into Odisha after covering about half of its total length. Near the city of Sambalpur, it is dammed by the largest earthen dam in the world, the Hirakud Dam. A composite structure of the earth, concrete and masonry, the dam measures 24 kilometres (15 mi) including the Dykes. It spans two hills; the Lamdungri on the left and the Chandili Dunguri on the right. It also forms the biggest artificial lake in Asia, with a reservoir holding 743 square kilometres (287 sq mi) at full capacity, with a shoreline of over 640 kilometres (400 mi).

After the formation of Chhattisgarh State, the major portion of Mahanadi basin now lies in Chhattisgarh. Presently, only 154 square kilometres (59 sq mi) basin area of Hasdeo River in Anuppur District lies in Madhya Pradesh.

Before the construction of the dam in 1953, the Mahanadi was about a mile wide at Sambalpur and carried massive amounts of silt, especially during the monsoon. Today, it is a rather tame river after the construction of the dam and is joined by the Ib, Ong, Tel and other minor streams. It then skirts the boundaries of the Baudh district and forces a tortuous way between ridges and ledges in a series of rapids until it reaches Dholpur, Odisha. The rapids end here and the river rolls towards the Eastern Ghats, forcing its way through them via the 64 kilometres (40 mi) long Satkosia Gorge. The Satakosia Gorge ends at Badamul of Nayagarh. Dense forests cover the hills flanking the river here. The river enters the Odisha plains at Naraj, about 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) from Cuttack, where it pours down between two hills that are a mile apart. A barrage has been constructed here to regulate the river’s flow into Cuttack.

The river traverses Cuttack district in an east-west direction. Just before entering Cuttack, it gives off a large distributary called the Kathjori. The city of Cuttack stands on the spit separating the two channels. The Kathjori then throws off many streams like the Kuakhai, Devi and Surua which fall into the Bay of Bengal after entering Puri district. The Kathjori itself falls into the sea as the Jotdar. Other distributaries of Mahanadi include the Paika, Birupa, Chitroptala river, Genguti and Lun.The Birupa then goes on to join the Brahmani River at Krushnanagar and enters the Bay of Bengal at Dhamra. The Mahanadi proper enters the sea via several channels near Paradeep at False Point, Jagatsinghpur. The combined Delta of the Mahanadi’s numerous distributaries and the Brahmani is one of the largest in India.

Process to Resolve Dispute

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the proposal for adjudication of dispute on Mahanadi River Waters. The Tribunal shall determine water sharing among basin States on the basis of the overall availability of water in the complete Mahanadi basin, contribution of each State, the present utilization of water resources in each State and the potential for future development.

As per provisions of the Inter-State River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act, 1956, the Tribunal shall consist of a Chairman and two other Members nominated by the Chief Justice of India from amongst the Judges of the Supreme Court or High Court. Further, services of two Assessors who are water resources experts having experience in handling sensitive water-related issues will be provided to advise the Tribunal in its proceedings.

As per provisions of the ISRWD Act, 1956 the Tribunal is required to submit its report and decision within a period of 3 years which can be extended to a further period not exceeding 2 years due to unavoidable reasons.

It is expected that with adjudication of dispute by the Tribunal, the long-pending dispute between States of Odisha and Chhattisgarh on Mahanadi river will come to a final settlement.


Sources:
1. NCERT Books
2. The Hindu
3. Wikipedia
4. PIB

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