The Central Water Commission has, however, stated that the water supply from River Cauvery to Tamil Nadu must not be hampered.

Karnataka gets Centres preliminary approval for Mekedatu projectRiver Cauvery in Mekadatu, Karnataka/ Sugan Raj S/ WikimediaCommons/ CCBYSA4.0
news Dispute Tuesday, November 27, 2018 - 15:36

In a major victory for Karnataka, the Central government has given its preliminary nod to the controversial Mekedatu project's pre-feasibiliy report. The Central Water Commission on Monday approved the pre-feasibility report submitted by the state government.

The Commission, on Tuesday has asked the Karnataka government to formulate a detailed project report for the Mekedatu Project. The CWC has also stated that the Karnataka government must provide Tamil Nadu with the required water from River Cauvery as prescribed by the Supreme Court.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Karnataka Water Resource Minister DK Shivakumar said that he was happy about the Centre's decision to approve the pre-feasibility report. "We are very happy with the central government's decision. But despite the centre's approval Tamil Nadu is opposing the project, which it should not. Chief Minister Kumaraswamy and I are ready to hold talks with our Tamil Nadu counterparts. They only have to agree," DK Shivakumar said

The approval comes after Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy's meeting with the Union Minister for Water Resources Nitin Gadkari in October this year. Kumaraswamy had expressed his confidence is obtaining an approval after the meeting. 

Following this, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Paliniswami had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to not grant permission for the Mekedatu project. 

What is the Mekedatu project?

Mekedatu is a deep gorge situated about 100 km away from Bengaluru city in Ramanagara district. In 2013, then Karnataka Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister TB Jayachandra announced the construction of a multi-purpose balancing reservoir project over the Mekedatu. 

The Rs 5,912-crore project aims to alleviate the drinking water problems of Bengaluru and Ramanagara district. It is also expected to generate hydro-electricity to meet the power needs of the state.

The government at the time said that the reservoir would have a capacity of 66 tmcft, after the release of water to Tamil Nadu.

Why the controversy?

Soon after the announcement was made, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa wrote to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to not approve the project. Jayalalithaa had told the Centre that the absence of a body to monitor the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal's order makes the project unfeasible for lower riparian states like Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu’s stand was that the project would not only impede the water available to farmers in the state but it would also go against the mandate that the total quantity of water must be for consumptive use, as prescribed by the Tribunal.

In February 2017, the former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his cabinet approved the project's commencement. In October 2017, the Karnataka government submitted a pre-feasibility report to the Central Water Commission (CWC), which was promptly returned by the body citing shortcomings.

On February 16, 2018, the Supreme Court ordered the setting up of a scheme that would oversee the implementation of its orders as well as arbitrate on any future water disputes between the two states.

With one of Tamil Nadu's major contentions being settled, the Chief Minister Palaniswami has contended that Karnataka approaching the CWC without the concurrence of Tamil Nadu was in violation of the apex court verdict.