To the relief of residents of Shivamogga in Karnataka, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa who is also an MLA from the district, said that the controversial project to draw water for Bengaluru from Sharavathi river will not be taken up. The announcement was made by the CM on Tuesday as he was speaking to reporters in Sagar in the district.
Other than the lack of feasibility of the project, concerns raised were large-scale deforestation of the pristine Western Ghats, water scarcity for Shivamogga residents and even lower power generation in the Sharavathi hydel power plant.
Sahadev Shivapura, an environmentalist, part of the Paschima Ghatta Jagriti Vedike, a collective working towards conservation of the Western Ghat region in Karnataka is cautiously optimistic about the announcement.
“We cannot celebrate just yet. This is a good decision. But let the government say that they won’t divert any west-flowing river for Bengaluru. Today they are moving away from Sharavathi because there was a big opposition. But tomorrow they might want to touch some other river or even start Yettinahole Stage-II,” he said.
Another activist echoed the same opinion. Shankar Sharma, a resident of Sagara and a retired government engineer, said, “The development over the issue of Linganamakki water to Bengaluru, as reported in the media, is great news. But a stand taken by the present government may be revoked by another in the future.”
He explained, “It will be very helpful to assuage the feelings of the people of Malenadu and generally of the environmentally-conscious people of the state to clearly mention all the reasons for dropping this project proposal, and also mention that the drinking water needs of Bengaluru will be met by other suitable options. Such clarity about the project proposal will dissuade any other governments from reviving the project proposal. “
The project meant that water from the Linganamakki dam on the river would have be drawn to Bengaluru, 430 km eastwards, while the river flows westwards, requiring a high amount of power. In fact, activists claimed that to draw 30 TMC of water would require the same amount of energy which is the capacity of the hydel power plant.
The project first proposed in 2013 was being pursued by the erstwhile HD Kumaraswamy-led Congress-JD(S) coalition government despite stiff opposition from scientists, environmentalists and even residents of Bengaluru and Shivamogga. The government had even started preparing a detailed project report for the project to be taken up by the Water Resources Department at an approximate cost of Rs 12,000 crore.
An online petition started by Bengaluru conservationist Vijay Nishanth against the project got the support of 7,500 people. There were protests held in Shivamogga as well by citizen groups and environmentalists under the umbrella of 'Sharavathi Ulisi Horata Samiti'. There was a district-wise strike held on July 10 as well for this cause. Activists connected to the movement claimed there was widespread support for the cause irrespective of people affiliated to different political sides.