The Karnataka government believes the Tamil Nadu government might have thrown a spoke in its plans for a tank irrigation project, using a 120-year-old agreement between the erstwhile governments of Mysore and Madras.
A committee, which clears Central government-funded projects, rejected the State government’s proposal to use sewage water generated in Bangalore to fill up dried tanks in Chikkaballapur and Hoskote under a Central irrigation programme. The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) said no to using sewage water from the City to fill up the dried tanks under the Centre’s Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme because of a hitherto unknown agreement signed on February 18, 1892, between Mysore and Madras.
The agreement requires the Government of Mysore to obtain consent from the Government of Madras before taking up any new irrigation projects. The TAC comprises officials from the Central Water Commission and the State government. The three-page agreement states: “The Mysore Government shall not, without the previous consent of the Madras Government or before a decision under Rule 4 below, build (a) ‘any new irrigation reservoirs across any part of the fifteen main rivers named in the appended, schedule A, or across any stream named in schedule B, below the point specified in column 5 of the said schedule B or in any drainage area.”
Schedule A of the agreement lists fifteen main rivers, including Cauvery, Kabini, Tunga, Bhadra and Dakshina Pinakini or South Pennar.
Karnataka’s Minor Irrigation (MI) department planned to use sewage water that flows in the erstwhile Dakshina Pinakini river valley. The river itself, called Pennar downstream in Tamil Nadu, had remained dry about three decades ago.
The MI’s Rs 42-crore lift irrigation project envisages filling up 29 minor tanks in and around Chikkaballapur and Hoskote towns, by diverting sewage water from Samethanahalli tank which is part of the Dakshina Pinakini valley.
But the Tamil Nadu government objected to the project. Member of Parliament Tamaraiselvan from Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu opposed the project and raised the issue in Parliament. Following this, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking his intervention to stop Karnataka’s plan.
She alleged that Karnataka was taking up construction of check dams across South Pennar river and claimed that it would affect lakhs of people in Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Tiruvannamalai, Villupuram and Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu.
The TAC, in its Bangalore meeting on August 22, decided not to accord permission to the project citing the 1892 agreement, which was placed before it by the Tamil Nadu government, according to sources in the Karnataka government. Another reason cited by the TAC is that not many of the 29 tanks have command area for taking up the irrigation project. Tamil Nadu claimed the water is the lifeline of farmers in many districts.
Secretary to the Minor Irrigation department P N Srinivasachary told Deccan Herald that the project had not been dropped. The department will try to clarify all points raised by the TAC, he said, adding that the government would find a way to implement the project.