Yet again, the issue of hydro power projects across the Cauvery river has cropped up.

Since 1996, the two major parties to the Cauvery dispute – Tamil Nadu and Karnataka – held various rounds of discussion to implement four hydro power projects across the river.

The projects pertained to the establishment of four power plants, two each in Tamil Nadu (Rasimanal: 360 MW [megawatt] and Hogenakkal: 120 MW) and Karnataka (Shivasamudram: 345 MW and Mekadatu: 400 MW). Tamil Nadu has been arguing for the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) or any Central agency to set up the four plants.

The last time the two States held talks on the projects was four years ago, in the presence of officials from the Union government. In August 2009, in one of the tripartite meetings in Chennai, both States stuck to their position.

The proportion of sharing of electricity generated from the proposed plants and the inclusion of the Shivasamudram plant were among the issues of contention between the two sides.

In its final order notified in February this year, the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal had referred to the proposed projects and stated that “whenever any such hydro power project is constructed and Cauvery waters are stored in the reservoir, the pattern of downstream releases should be consistent with our order so that the irrigation requirements are not jeopardised.”

As the final order did not seek to put hurdles to hydro power generation on the Cauvery in general, many viewed it as the Tribunal’s clearance for executing the projects. Perhaps, keeping this aspect in mind, Karnataka’s Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T.B. Jayachandra told reporters in Bangalore two weeks ago that he did not foresee any legal problems to implement the Mekadatu project or any other hydro power project in his State.

But, the Tribunal is very clear in its stipulation on the pattern of release of water from any such hydel reservoir.

Besides, the final word is yet to come from the Supreme Court on the matter of execution of the hydro power projects.