Pramod Sawant. (File Photo: IANS). Image Source: IANS News

Panaji, Nov 15 : The Opposition in Goa on Friday accused Chief Minister Pramod Sawant of not defending Goa's interests vis-a-vis the ongoing feud with Karnataka over the sharing of the Mhadei river water.

A local NGO has also warned of protests during the upcoming International Film Festival of India, to be held in Goa from November 20-18, if Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar failed to come good on his assurance of reconsidering his ministry's nod to the Karnataka government's controversial water diversion project at Kalasa-Banduri, which the Goa government claims could severely impact the state's ecology.

"The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests is playing with the sentiments of Goans and our Chief Minister is also showing no signs of seriousness as far as protecting the state's interests is concerned in the Mhadei case. Pramod Sawant has let the state down," Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat said on Friday.

On November 4, Sawant led an all-party delegation to the national capital and met Javadekar, urging the latter to withdraw his ministry's nod to the Rs 841 crore Kalasa-Banduri project, claiming the matter was sub-judice and that the diversion of water from the Mhadei basin would wreak havoc in Goa.

In response, Javadekar had claimed that the letter sanctioning the green nod was issued due to an oversight, and sought 10 days' time to respond to the demands made by the delegation.

After the 10-day deadline lapsed on Thursday, Goa Forward Party President and former Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai also said that Sawant was weak and did not pull enough weight in Delhi to fight for Goa's cause vis-a-vis the water diversion issue.

"Pramod Sawant has only been lying to the people of Goa. He is a lightweight Chief Minister who is not even taken seriously by his party colleagues in Delhi, including the Union Minister for Environment and Forests," Sardesai told reporters.

Responding to the criticism, the Chief Minister said that the 10-day period could spill into a couple of more days.

"I have spoken to Prakash Javadekar in the morning. He has said that a committee of his ministry is likely to meet and would let me know the progress in a couple of days," Sawant told reporters.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Front of Goa, a local NGO, warned that if Javadekar does not respond to the requests from Goa on the Mhadei issue, the Union Minister would have to "face the music" when he visits Goa next week to inaugurate the 50th edition of the International Film Festival of India.

"Javadekar has taken the issue very lightly. The Mhadei diversion issue could virtually kill Goa if the river water is diverted. We will not hesitate to make our displeasure known to him when he comes for the IFFI in Goa," the NGO said in a statement.

The Mhadei river originates in Karnataka and meets the Arabian Sea in Panaji in Goa, while briefly flowing through Maharashtra.

An inter-state water disputes tribunal set up by the Central government had in August 2018 allotted 13.42 thousand million cubic feet (TMC) from the Mhadei river basin (including 3.9 TMC for diversion into the depleted Malaprabha river basin) to Karnataka. Maharashtra was been allotted 1.33 TMC.

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