New Delhi: On Independence Day, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai once again reiterated that his government is committed to implementing the Mekedatu drinking water project, despite opposition from neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
But the proposed Rs 9,000 crore reservoir project across the Cauvery, which besides meeting the drinking water needs of Bengaluru will also generate 400 MW electricity, is not likely to be cleared by the Central Water Commission (CWC) anytime soon, senior officials in the Union Jal Shakti ministry have told ThePrint.
Karnataka had submitted the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Mekedatu project to the CWC for approval in January 2020. But the Central Water Commission has not started processing the DPR as of yet, a senior Jal Shakti ministry official, who did not want to be named, said.
Reason: The official said that the CWC will start processing the DPR only after the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) gives its approval for the project after taking consent of all the Cauvery-basin states, including Tamil Nadu.
Besides Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the other Cauvery-basin states are Kerala and Puducherry.
“They (Karnataka) have submitted the DPR. We have told the state government that one of the prerequisites for processing of the DPR is that they have to submit the clearance of the CWMA,” a CWC official said. “So, once they submit the consent of CWMA, then only we can discuss the DPR further.”
Cauvery water authority yet to obtain consent of other states
The Cauvery Water Management Authority, which is a body of Cauvery-basin states, is yet to obtain the consent of co-basin states for the DPR, the official added.
The CWMA was constituted by the then Ministry of Water Resources and Ganga Rejuvenation on 1 June 2018, to address the dispute over sharing of Cauvery river waters among the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and the Union territory of Puducherry.
“Those basin states will have to see inter-state issues relating to this particular project and then they have to give their comment on whether this project is acceptable from an inter-state angle or not,” the official said. “Only then, we will process the project further for examination.”
In a written reply in Rajya Sabha in July 2021, Bishweswar Tudu, Minister of State, Jal Shakti ministry had also said that Karnataka had submitted the DPR of Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir cum Drinking Water Project to CWC in January 2019 and copies of DPR were forwarded to Cauvery Water Management Authority for obtaining consent of co-basin states for acceptability of the DPR.
The Mekedatu reservoir with a capacity to store 67,000 million cubic feet (tmc ft) of water has become a major bone of contention between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Tamil Nadu has been opposing it tooth and nail on the ground that it would impact the flow of Cauvery river water to the state in violation of the final award delivered by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. The dam will come up across Cauvery, four km from the Tamil Nadu border.
On 16 July, a delegation of leaders from Tamil Nadu met Union Jal Shakti minister Gajendra Shekhawat and handed him a memorandum, which said the Mekedatu project would affect the interests of the farming community in the state.
The project received an in-principle nod by the then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka Cabinet, following which a pre-feasibility report was submitted to the Central Water Commission by the state government.