- GS-2: Issues relating to development and management of Water
- GS-2: Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
Mekedatu Dam Project
Context: On July 6, Karnataka Chief Minister said in Bengaluru that his government would go ahead with the long-pending Mekedatu dam project.
- The Mekedatu multi-purpose project involves building a balancing reservoir across the Cauvery River near Kanakapura in Ramanagaram district.
- It envisages supplying drinking water to Bengaluru and Ramanagaram districts, besides generation of power.
What do the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and the Supreme Court say?
- The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, in its final order on February 2007, made allocations to all the riparian States — Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, apart from the Union Territory of Puducherry.
- It also stipulated “tentative monthly deliveries during a normal year” to be made available by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu.
- Aggrieved over the final order for different reasons, the States had appealed to the Supreme Court. In February 2018, the court, in its judgment, revised the water allocation and increased the share of Karnataka by 14.75 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) at the cost of Tamil Nadu.
- The enhanced quantum comprised 4.75 tmc ft for meeting drinking water and domestic requirements of Bengaluru and surrounding areas.
What is Karnataka planning?
- Encouraged by the Supreme Court verdict, Karnataka, which sees the order as an endorsement of its stand, has set out to pursue the Mekedatu project.
- Originally proposed as a hydropower project, the revised Mekedatu dam project has more than one purpose to serve.
- Estimated to cost ₹9,000 crore, the project envisages the construction of a reservoir of 67.16-tmc ft capacity, which will come up about 4 km away from the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border.
- A hydropower plant of nearly 400 MW has also been proposed.
- The Karnataka government has argued that the proposed reservoir will regulate the flow to Tamil Nadu on a monthly basis, as stipulated by the Tribunal and the Supreme Court. Karnataka contends that the project will not affect the interests of Tamil Nadu farmers.
Why is Tamil Nadu opposed to it?
- Tamil Nadu feels that Karnataka, as the upper riparian State has adequate infrastructure even now to address the water needs of Bengaluru, there is no need for the Mekedatu project.
- The Mekedatu project also does not find mention in the Tribunal’s final order or the Supreme Court judgment.
- Besides, given the unpleasant experiences that it has had with Karnataka in securing its share of the Cauvery water over the years, Tamil Nadu is wary of the assurances of the other side.
What happens next?
- Tamil Nadu’s petitions against the project are pending with the Supreme Court.
- The project is yet to get environmental clearance from the Centre.
- A way out can be found if the two parties agree to the idea of a joint execution, operation and maintenance of the project or a third party’s participation
Connecting the dots: