Recently, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Southern Zone has appointed a joint committee to look into allegations of unauthorised construction activity taking place in Mekedatu Project, where the Karnataka government had proposed to construct a dam across the Cauvery River.
About Mekedatu Project
- The Mekedatu project was first approved by the Karnataka state government in 2017.
- It received approval from the erstwhile Ministry of Water Resources for the detailed project report and is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
- The approval from MoEFCC is crucial because 63% of the forest area of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary will be submerged.
- 5,051 hectares of forests would be submerged, including 3,181 hectares in the sanctuary and 1,870 hectares in the reserve forest.
- 4.75 thousand million cubic feet of water could be drawn from the reservoir to partially meet the drinking needs of Bengaluru.
- Tamil Nadu has approached the Supreme Court (SC) against the project even if Karnataka has held that it would not affect the flow of water to Tamil Nadu.
- In June 2020, during the Cauvery Water Management Authority’s meeting, Tamil Nadu reiterated its opposition to the project.
About NGT Directions
- Now NGT has said that, If the project is to be implemented without conducting any environmental impact assessment study and without obtaining necessary clearance, if any required, then it will be an unauthorized act affecting the environment.
- The NGT also directed the joint committee to assess the damage caused to the environment in case of any construction made and determine the compensation payable by the respective authorities who are responsible.
Reasons for Opposition by Tamil Nadu
- Tamil Nadu is opposed to any project being proposed in the upper riparian unless it was approved by the Supreme Court.
- Karnataka has no right to construct any reservoir on an inter-state river without the consent of the lower riparian state i.e. Tamil Nadu in this case.
- The project is against the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) in which the SC held that no state can claim exclusive ownership or assert rights to deprive other states of the waters of inter-state rivers.
- The CWDT and the SC have found that the existing storage facilities available in the Cauvery basin were adequate for storing and distributing water so Karnataka’s proposal is ex-facie (on the face of it) untenable and should be rejected outright.
- It has also held that the reservoir is not just for drinking water alone, but to increase the extent of irrigation, which is in clear violation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Award.
- Mekedatu, meaning goat’s leap, is a deep gorge situated at the confluence of the rivers Cauvery and Arkavathi, about 100 km from Bengaluru, at the Kanakapura taluk in Karnataka’s Ramanagara district.
- In 2013, then Karnataka announced the construction of a multi-purpose balancing reservoir project.
- The project aimed to alleviate the drinking water problems of Bengaluru and Ramanagara district.
- It was also expected to generate hydro-electricity to meet the power needs of the state.
Cauvery River Basin and Important Tributaries
- The Cauvery River rises near the Brahmagiri range situated in the Kodagu (Coorg) district of Karnataka.
- The Cauvery basin extends over states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Union Territory of Puducherry draining an area of 81 thousand sq.km.
- Major Left Bank Tributaries: Harangi, Hemavati, Shimsha and Arkavati.
- Major Right Bank Tributaries: Kabini, Bhavani, Lakshmanthirtha, Noyyil, Suvarnavati and Amaravati.
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