The Mekedatu dam project has become a bone of contention between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The project which is spearheaded by the BJP-led Karnataka government, has even seen protests from Tamil Nadu BJP leaders. Recently, the Tamil Nadu government approached the Supreme Court against a National Green Tribunal order which closed the proceedings on the state’s plea to set up a committee on Karnataka’s decision related to the Mekedatu reservoir and drinking water project which entails an investment of around Rs 9,000 crore. The tribunal order was passed on June 17, 2021.
The Tamil Nadu government has submitted in its plea that the NGT has failed to consider the environmental damage likely to be caused by the construction works of the project which will affect a large extent of Reserve Forests and Wildlife Sanctuaries. The state government further said the principal NGT bench proceeded to hear the review application, instead of relegating the applicant state of Karnataka to the southern bench which passed the order under review. There has been a war of words between the ministers of two states over the project.
Not just the DMK, the previous government led by AIADMK was also against the project. Earlier this month, the Tamil Nadu BJP leaders staged a hunger protest against Karnataka’s decision.
What is the Mekedatu dam project?
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have been at loggerheads for a long over the Cauvery river water sharing issue. The Supreme Court has already delivered a verdict in the case stating that the Karnataka government would have to release 177.25 tmcft of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. The judgment also enhanced Karnataka’s share by 14.75 tmcft water per year while Tamil Nadu will get 404.25 tmcft.
In 2019, the Karnataka government had submitted a report to the central government informing about its plan to construct a reservoir at Mekedatu in Ramanagara district, 90 km from Bengaluru and 4 km from the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. The project aims to ensure adequate drinking water supply to Bengaluru. The project is proposed at the confluence of Cauvery with its tributary Arkavathi. While the dam will have a capacity of holding about 66 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) of water, it would generate 400MW of hydroelectricity once operational. According to the ‘pre-feasibility report of the project, Karnataka had been considering generating power from the river since 1948.
Why is Tamil Nadu opposing it?
Former water resource minister and now Chief Minister of Karnataka, Basavaraj Bommai had said that the project would benefit both – Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and their share of water will be released as agreed and only excess water will be utilised through the dam.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin had told the New Indian Express that the Mekedatu area represents the last free point in Karnataka from where Cauvery water flows unrestricted into Tamil Nadu. He said that since there is no dam there at present, water from there has been reaching Tamil Nadu without any hindrance but the Mekedatu dam project is an attempt by Karnataka to lock this free flow of water. He alleged that if the dam is built, Karnataka will only release residual quantities of water to Tamil Nadu and that is why the state is opposed to the project.