Tenders floated for implementation of the controversial Kalasa Banduri scheme by the previous BJP government minutes before Karnataka Assembly elections were announced may run into rough weather as they were put out without obtaining forest and environment clearance.
The then BJP government opened the tenders for bidding around 11 a.m. on March 29, barely 20 minutes before polls were announced by the Election Commission of India. Sources in the Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited (KNNL) said the tenders were floated in anticipation of securing forest and environment clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFC). The tenders are open for bidding till August 21. The value of the tender for Banduri Nala is ₹542 crore and for Kalasa is ₹412 crore.
The Kalasa-Banduri project aims to divert water from Mahadayi to satisfy the drinking water needs of Belagavi, Dharwad, Bagalkot and Gadag districts in Karnataka. As per the plans, barrages are to be built on Kalasa and Banduri streams — tributaries of Mahadayi — and water diverted towards Karnataka’s parched districts. Mahadayi originates in the Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in Belagavi district of Karnataka, and flows into the Arabian Sea in Goa.
A few days ago, Goa and Maharashtra governments sat together and issued a joint statement saying that they will put up a united fight against Karnataka in connection with the water diversion project.
In November 2010, the UPA government at the Centre had set up a tribunal to settle disputes between Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra. In 2018, the tribunal awarded 13.42 TMC water from Mahadayi river basin to Karnataka, 1.33 TMC to Maharashtra and 24 TMC to Goa. The same was notified by the Union Government in February 2020.
Congress in Karnataka not confident of getting clearance from BJP government at Centre
A few weeks ago, the Karnataka government submitted a revised proposal to the National Wildlife Board and MoEFC in connection with the Mahadayi project, The government sought permission to divert 26.92 hectares of forest land for non-forest purposes.
Ashok Vasanada, Chief Engineer, KNNL, Dharwad said the time period for bidding was extended till August as the government is yet to obtain the needed clearance from the Union Government. KNNL is hopeful of securing permission.
Sources in the Congress, however, say that the tenders may have to be scrapped as the Union Government may not give clearance with the Congress coming to power in Karnataka. If the Union Government givers clearance, the Congress will get a boost ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Besides, BJP is heading the government in Goa and is in alliance with the Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena in Maharashtra; both will not allow the Centre to grant clearance.
Ashok Chandaragi, an activist who has been fighting for the project, said the Congress’ failure to respond to the meeting of Goa and Maharashtra governments is an indication that these tenders will go down the drain. “Both Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar should respond to this development, and lead a delegation to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking clearance for the project. As the tenders are open, the government should put pressure on the Centre,” he said.