Mekedatu: Govt yet to seek forest clearance, survey

Mekedatu: Govt yet to seek forest clearance, survey

Mekedatu: Govt yet to seek forest clearance, survey
The State government may be resolute in its decision to build a dam across the River Cauvery at Mekedatu in Ramanagar district, but it hasn’t done anything so far to get the mandatory forest survey and clearance.

The government has informed the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal about its plans of constructing the dam and has even started the process of inviting the global expression of interest for the project that is aimed to meet the increasing water needs of Bengaluru and surrounding areas. But it hasn’t kept the forest department in the loop.

According to a senior official in the forest department, clearance under the Forest Conservation Act and approval of the National Board for Wildlife must be obtained before the project is set in motion.

“No proposal has come to us. It is only through the media that we have learnt that a dam will be constructed near Mekedatu across the River Cauvery. As per rules, environmental clearance is a must to construct a dam, whether it is for drinking water or any other purpose,” the official told Deccan Herald, wishing to remain anonymous.

“It is a set government procedure. An environmental assessment, which includes impact on wildlife and impact on flora and fauna, is another must.”

The forest clearance should be sought by the Public Works Department, the Minor Irrigation Department or any other department concerned.

“We have been told that an aerial survey for dam construction in the Cauvery basin was conducted in November-December. But we were not kept in the loop,” according to the official. “We have only learnt that the government is going ahead with the preparation of a detailed project report.”

The rules 

As per rules, the opinion of the forest department must be sought for construction of any dam.

Based on the proposal, field officers will conduct a field survey and prepare a report. This report is then sent to the Central government—Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)—for clearance. Work on the project could start only after the clearance is obtained.

Official sources insisted that the MoEF had not been informed about the construction of a dam at Mekedatu. Since the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary is a prime elephant habitat—though not a declared tiger reserve or habitat—any proposal to change its topography requires MoEF approval, the sources said.

Govt firm on project, says minister

The State government on Tuesday reiterated that it would go ahead with the Mekedatu project.  Water Resources Minister M B Patil told the Legislative Council that the government had already conveyed its stance to the Union Ministry of Water Resources and the Tamil Nadu government.

“It was written to Tamil Nadu in December 2014 that the implementation of the Mekedatu hydroelectricity project poses no hindrances to anyone. TN was also told that there is no imposition on Karnataka to share the water to be used for the purpose of Mekedatu project. Barring clause 13 of the Cauvery Water Sharing Disputes settlement, which states that 192 TMC of water has to be given to TN, there are no other impositions” said Patil. He said that the government is prepared to face a legal and political battle over the issue.

The issue was raised by Opposition leader K S Eshwarappa, who pointed to the statements by Union Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar suggesting that Karnataka had not made any applications seeking approvals for the project.