Bhubaneswar: The Odisha chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, Tuesday urged the prime minister Narendra Modi to set up a tribunal to resolve the Mahanadi water dispute with Chhattisgarh.

Patnaik, in a letter to the prime minister, has said the notification under Section 4(!) of the Inter-State River Water Dispute Act, 1956, be issued to protect the interest of 4 crore people of Odisha. Stating that the  state government had filed a complaint on November 19, 2016, under the Act seeking appointment of a Tribunal to adjudicate the water sharing disputes and it is mandatory to constitute a tribunal within one year of filing the complaint,  he has pointed out that the Central government is yet to act on it.

Patnaik said the union water resources minister has already admitted both in Parliament and the Supreme Court that the dispute cannot be resolved by negotiation and thus setting up a Tribunal is necessary.

“However, to the utter surprise of the people of Odisha for whom Mahanadi is a lifeline, the Union Ministry of Water Resources filed a written statement on December 4 this year changing its stand completely by stating that the Tribunal cannot be constituted,” the chief minister has said and added, “This volte-face is not only surprising but prima facie smacks of considerations other than what is legal or what is just and fair.”

He said the ministry cited the 1983 Agreement, under which Odisha and (then undivided) Madhya Pradesh had agreed to constitute a Joint Control Board (JCB) but “misread” its provisions as this body is not intended to resolve the dispute.

“I may emphasize that the federal scheme of our Constitution does not countenance forcing the unwilling state to negotiate or deliberate particularly in a situation like this, where the opposite state has been using negotiation only as a handle to delay the adjudication to complete its projects and create a fait accompli,” he said.

Patnaik said the state government does not see any purpose in further negotiating with the recalcitrant Chhattisgarh which has unilaterally and surreptitiously gone ahead with the construction of dams and barrages in Mahanadi basin far exceeding its share of water.

The Hirakud dam in the downstream Odisha has already suffered and is likely to suffer heavily much to the prejudice of the people of Odisha, he added.