Thursday, Feb 13, 2003
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By Our Tamil Nadu Bureau
Based on a request from the Kerala Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, today directed the Public Works Minister, O. Paneerselvam, to lead a team including the Finance Minister, C. Ponnaiyan, and the Law Minister, D. Jayakumar, the Chief Secretary, Lakshmi Pranesh, and other senior officials to Thiruvananthapuram to hold talks with Ministers and officials in Kerala.
According to an official release, the legal experts have said that talks may be held with Kerala "without prejudice to the stand of the Government of Tamil Nadu in the proceedings before the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal."
Tamil Nadu had filed a civil miscellaneous petition before the tribunal on January 1, 2003, on this issue.
The State had also urged the Centre to direct Kerala to stop construction of the weir immediately.
On February 7, the tribunal had directed Kerala not to proceed with further works stating that nothing should be done to make the petition becoming infructuous till the date of the next hearing slated for March 6.
Earlier, on receipt of information about construction of a weir across the river near Mukkali village in Kerala, Ms. Jayalalithaa had written to Mr. Antony, stating that diversion of water outside the Cauvery basin would prejudicially affect the interests of Tamil Nadu.
In that letter, she had pointed out that the issue of sharing of waters in the basin, including the Bhavani, was under adjudication before the tribunal, and urged Mr. Antony to desist from taking further action on construction of the weir till the matter was settled by the tribunal.
In his reply, Mr. Antony had suggested holding of a ministerial-level meeting of both States for resolving the long-pending inter-State water issues and arriving at acceptable solutions.
After a gap of eight months, both the States are holding the minister-level talks. The previous meeting took place in Chennai on June 10 when several long-pending issues on sharing of inter-state rivers were discussed. "We will pick up the thread from where it was left at the last meeting", an official said.
Among the issues deliberated upon were the Parambikulam-Aliyar Project (PAP), Pamba-Achankovil-Vaippar link, Pandiya-Punnampuzha scheme, Shenbavalli anicut and Neyyar irrigation scheme.
All these are expected to come up at tomorrow's meeting also, according to sources in the Government. The Mullaperiyar dam dispute, being in the Supreme Court, may not figure in the talks.
An important outcome of the last meeting was the decision to establish a six-member technical committee, comprising three each from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
From each State, two irrigation experts and an energy specialist would form part of the panel.
Though it was stated then that the panel would submit its report in three months, the first meeting of the committee was held only in December as Kerala took its own time to nominate experts to the panel, according to sources in the State Government here.
Some independent water experts wonder whether any purpose will be served by holding talks unless there was a genuine desire on the part of Kerala to sort out the issues.
However, the official says "at least, the frequency of negotiations between us has increased, compared to the past, which is a healthy sign". The State's delegation was keen on pushing for an early resolution of the pending issues, at least with Kerala now.
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