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DH Deciphers | Mekedatu project: What is it and where does it stand now?

The controversial Mekedatu balancing reservoir project is back in the limelight with the Congress party launching a 100-km-long Padayatra
hruthi H M Sastry
Last Updated : 11 January 2022, 09:22 IST
Last Updated : 11 January 2022, 09:22 IST
Last Updated : 11 January 2022, 09:22 IST
Last Updated : 11 January 2022, 09:22 IST

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The controversial Mekedatu balancing reservoir project is back in the limelight with the Congress party launching a 100-km-long Padayatra (foot march) demanding its implementation. The project has been in the pipeline for years now, and the Congress party has blamed the BJP for not taking it forward despite ruling both at the Centre and the state. The BJP has, in turn, blamed the Congress party for having done nothing on Mekedatu when it was in power between 2013 and 2018. The project has also faced stiff opposition from Tamil Nadu, which has vowed to get it scrapped. Here's what you need to know about the project:

What is the Mekedatu balancing reservoir project and what will it do?

The project will actually come up at Ontigondlu, about 1.5 km from what is known as Mekedatu (literal meaning, goat's leap), at the confluence of Cauvery and Arkavathi rivers, about 90 km southwest of Bengaluru and 4 km from the Tamil Nadu border.

The project was first announced in 2013 by the then law minister T B Jayachandra during the Congress government.

It's primarily aimed at supplying 4.75 tmcf (thousand million cubic feet) of drinking water to Bengaluru and surrounding areas but will also generate 400 MW of hydroelectric power.

For this, Karnataka wants to construct a concrete gravity dam at Mekedatu with a storage capacity of 67.16 tmcft.

What will be the project area?

The project requires a total of 5,252 hectares of land. Of this, about 4,996 hectares will be submerged while the actual dam will be constructed in the remaining 256 hectares. Of the total land required, 3,181 hectares fall in the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, 1,869 hectares in a reserve forest and 201 hectares is revenue land.

How much will it cost?

While the project was previously estimated to cost Rs 5,000 crore, the cost has now escalated to Rs 9,000 crore. And considering that the project has still not been approved by the central government, the actual cost will likely go up further depending on when the final approvals come.

What is the current status of the project?

In January 2019, Karnataka submitted the Detailed Project Report (DPR) to the Central Water Commission (CWC) and later to the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) to get the consent of the co-basin states. The CWMA is yet to approve the DPR because Tamil Nadu, which is the co-basin state, has opposed the project. The lower riparian state has also approached the Supreme Court against Mekedatu, and the matter is pending adjudication.

Why is Tamil Nadu opposing Mekedatu?

If the reservoir is constructed, Tamil Nadu fears, Karnataka will hoard water in the dam, thereby cheating it of its share of the Cauvery water. The neighbouring state has argued that as per the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act, Karnataka cannot build the dam without the consent of the lower riparian state, which is Tamil Nadu in this case.

Are there any other hurdles to the project?

Other than opposition from Tamil Nadu, green activists have questioned the environmental price of the project. A major chunk of the land that will be submerged by the dam will be of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary area, which is a key elephant corridor. The sanctuary is also home to many endangered wildlife species. The sanctuary also acts as a buffer area for wildlife animals such as tigers in the nearby MM Hills and BR Hills. Activists fear that the loss of this space will only lead to more man-animal conflict.

What's Karnataka's argument?

The Karnataka government has maintained that it is well within its rights to construct the dam as long as it makes sure that Tamil Nadu gets its annual share of water as prescribed by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal. And since the dam will come up within Karnataka, the state is not violating any law, officials argue. More than that, the state sees Mekedatu as an opportunity to supply sufficient water to meet the ever-growing needs of Bengaluru and the surrounding districts. There is also an acute power shortage, Karnataka has told the Centre. The state also hopes that the dam will boost tourism in the area.

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Published 10 January 2022, 18:36 IST

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