With Minister for Health and Family Welfare U.T. Khader, who represents Mangalore, being made in charge of Kolar district, there is the question of whether he will stand his ground and refuse to be a votary of the Netravati diversion project, which entails felling of thousands of trees in his home district.
Mr. Khader, who has opposed the river diversion so far, is likely to come under pressure from the people of Kolar, who have been yearning for the Netravati waters for over a decade now.
He could be faced with pressure from other quarters as well. Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas M. Veerappa Moily, also from the coastal region, has already supported diversion of the river.
Mr. Moily, who hails from Karkala in Udupi district and represented the Assembly segment five times, now represents the Chickballapur Lok Sabha constituency. This constituency is going to be a key beneficiary of the diversion being implemented in its new and subdued avatar — the Yettinahole project.
With an influential Mr. Moily supporting the project and the Union government having “cleared” the project (as claimed by the Bharatiya Janata Party government), Mr. Khader will find himself in a piquant situation. Mr. Moily is learnt to have played a key role in taking the project forward even when the BJP was in power in the State. The Union Minister has even been quoted in the media as saying that the Yettinahole project is only a beginning of the larger Netravati diversion project.
Another leader from the region, D.V. Sadananda Gowda, who had initially opposed the scheme, shocked environmentalists after becoming the Chief Minister when he said the scheme had not been abandoned.
The project, which was pushed towards implementation stage during the BJP regime, is gathering momentum without people of Dakshina Kannada being taken into confidence. The former Water Resources Minister Basavaraj Bommai had claimed that a Rs. 3,269-crore tender had been floated.
With little or no information available in the public domain, the project is perceived differently by different sections of society. Environmentalists have pointed out that the project will adversely hit the lives of farmers and fisherfolk and Mangalore residents (who depend on the river for drinking water) besides destroying a chunk of the evergreen forests. They have said it would seriously alter the socio-economic conditions of people of Dakshina Kannada for whom the river is a lifeline.
Cultural and religious leaders such as Dharmadhikari of Sri Kshetra Dharmasthala D. Veerendra Heggade and politicians of the region, including the new district in-charge Minister B. Ramanath Rai, have opposed it.
The nine-member G.S. Paramashivaiah committee had in 2001 suggested diversion of the west-flowing river. The latest plan of the State government is to tap about 24 tmcft of water at Yettinahole and pump it to arid districts via Sakleshpur in Hassan district.