Mekedatu: CM Bommai to convene all-party meet, TN says it wont allow a brick to be laid

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai also ruled out negotiations with neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
A collage of MK Stalin and Basavaraj Bommai
A collage of MK Stalin and Basavaraj Bommai
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Expressing his government's commitment to implement the Mekedatu project across river Cauvery, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai ruled out negotiations with neighbouring Tamil Nadu, on Tuesday, March 8. He also said that he will be calling an all party meeting soon, to discuss the legal repercussions and going ahead with the work. He was reacting to objections raised by Leader of Opposition Siddaramaiah in the Assembly to Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat's recent statement that the Union government is ready to facilitate talks between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu on the Mekedatu project.

Meanwhile, reacting to the announcement by Bommai, Tamil Nadu Water Resources Minister Duraimurugan said that the state government would not allow the Karnataka government to lay a single brick for the project. “Not only Rs 1,000 crore, even if the Karnataka government allocates Rs 5,000 crore, but the people of Tamil Nadu also will not allow a brick (to be laid for the Mekedatu project),” he was quoted as saying.

Citing Shekhawat's statement, Siddaramaiah had expressed apprehensions about the Government of India granting clearances for the project. Tamil Nadu is vehemently opposed to the project.

"Regarding the Mekedatu project there have been discussions, though the factual position is known to everyone, its repercussions need to be discussed with the legal team," Bommai said.

Noting that the task before Karnataka is to begin the work after getting the Detailed Project Report (DPR) approved and environmental clearance from the Union government, the Chief Minister said he already had two rounds of discussions with the legal team regarding the legal repercussions, and will be calling an all-party meeting, probably this week itself.

"Our stand is very clear that our responsibility is to give Tamil Nadu the due water which has been allocated by the tribunal, other than we don't have any other responsibility. They (TN) have put a miscellaneous application. In this background, let's all come to one decision to go ahead and begin the Mekedatu work at the earliest, after getting to know the legal point of view from experts," he added.

The DPR of the project is before the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) as well as the Environment Ministry for environmental clearance. The terms of reference are yet to be fixed.

CM Bommai said a miscellaneous application from Tamil Nadu is before the Supreme Court regarding the project. He added that the National Green Tribunal's Southern Zone bench in Chennai had earlier stayed the project on the basis of some farmers visiting the proposed dam site. This has been challenged in the Supreme Court, he added.

Highlighting that Tamil Nadu is opposed to any project by Karnataka in connection with Cauvery water as it has got political importance there, Bommai said, "They oppose even for drinking water, so we too have objected to some of their projects."

The Chief Minister also made it clear that there are no plans of negotiations regarding the Mekedatu project before the state government, as mentioned by the Union Minister. "Getting the DPR approved and environmental clearance is the only agenda before us."

Noting that the Congress had organised a padayatra demanding for the implementation of Mekedatu project, Siddaramaiah said after the 2018 Supreme Court ruling regarding Cauvery river water, there is no dispute and Tamil Nadu has no right to object to the Mekedatu project.

In addition to 177.75 tmc water in a normal year, during the last seven years 582 tmc of surplus water has flown to Tamil Nadu, he said, "The surplus water that flows to Tamil Nadu and then to sea, is our water."

Intervening, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister J C Madhuswamy pointed out that there is a quantum of water allocated to Karnataka too and the Supreme Court has not said that surplus water belongs to Karnataka.

"Regarding surplus water and what has to be done in distress, there has been no decision so far. They (TN) have disputed the surplus water and a case is going on in the court, so there is a dispute and we (state govt) are fighting out," he said.

Rejecting it, Siddaramaiah said there is no stay from the court for the project. "According to me Tamil Nadu is opposing the project for the sake of politics and votes. Legally, constitutionally, they have no right."

Senior Congress leader and former Irrigation Minister HK Patil too said according to Karnataka there is no dispute other than the state's liability to release certain quantum of water to Tamil Nadu. "We will not accept any type of negotiation, because the issue is already over. There is no issue now. That should be the stand of the state," he said.

Patil also urged the Chief Minister to write to the Government of India regarding its objection to the Union Minister's statement and clarifying the state's stand. To which Bommai said Karnataka's stand on Mekedatu has been made clear again and again by him and his predecessor BS Yediyurappa in several letters to the Union government, and he will be writing once again informing the decision of the all party meeting.

"I will also go to Delhi and make all efforts to get DPR approved and to begin the work," he added. The state Budget presented by Bommai last week provided a grant of Rs 1,000 crore in the current year for implementation of the Mekedatu project. The Mekedatu multi-purpose (drinking and power) project involves building a balancing reservoir near Kanakapura in Ramanagara district.

The estimated Rs 9,000 crore project once completed is aimed at ensuring drinking water to Bengaluru and neighbouring areas (4.75 TMC) and it can also generate 400 MW power.

Karnataka has maintained that the project within its territory will benefit both states as the surplus water stored can be managed between the two during a distress year, and its implementation will in no way affect the interests of Tamil Nadu's farming communities, as there will be no impact on its share of water.

However, the neighbouring state is of the view that the project would "impound and divert" the uncontrolled water flow due to Tamil Nadu from Kabini sub-basin, the catchment area below Krishnarajasagara, and also from Simsha, Arkavathy and Suvarnavathi sub-basins besides other small streams.

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