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BENGALURU: The Mahadayi Water Disputes Tribunal (MWDT) has rejected Karnataka’s plea for an interim order to allow the state to draw 7.56 tmcft of water from Mahadayi river to Malaprabha river. Karnataka had sought water to meet drinking water needs of drought-hit Belagavi, Hubballi-Dharwad and other towns in northern Karnataka.

Protests erupted in the northern districts of the state after the tribunal’s ruling, with several farmer and pro-Kannada organisations calling for a state-wide bandh on Thursday.

The Mahadayi tribunal headed by J N Panchal, had concluded its hearing on Monday and pronounced its order on Wednesday.

At the centre of the dispute is the sharing of waters of the Mahadayi river (called Mandovi in Goa). The river originates and flows for 28km in Karnataka and meanders through Maharashtra and Goa before reaching the Arabian Sea. Karnataka wants to build canals to link Kalasa and Banduri, the tributaries of Mahadayi, to divert 7.56 tmcft of water to the Malaprabha river basin.

Opposing Karnataka’s plea, the Goa government argued that if Karnataka implemented the Kalasa-Banduri project, it would prove disastrous for the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats as the proposed project was deep inside the forest.

Counsel for Goa, Atmananda Nadkarni, also countered Karnataka’s claim of low inflow to Malaprabha reservoir due to poor rainfall in the catchment area. Nadkarni attributed it to lift irrigation projects that had come up along the Malaprabha.

Fali S Nariman, representing Karnataka, had argued that though there was good rainfall in Khanapur taluk this year, inflow to Malaprabha river remained poor and the storage in its reservoir was lower than last year. Karnataka urged the tribunal to allow it to utilise 7.56 tmcft for drinking purpose.