Today's Paper

Diversion of Bhavani water improper: CM

CHENNAI Dec. 25. Tamil Nadu has strongly opposed the Kerala move to divert water from the Bhavani, a tributary of the Cauvery. The move, Tamil Nadu fears, will adversely affect the irrigation and drinking water needs of Coimbatore, already a drought-prone district.

The Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, in a letter to the Kerala Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, expressed her strong reservations about the proposal. She was distressed that a weir for diversion of water from the river was being planned by Kerala even when the Cauvery issue was pending before the Cauvery River Water Disputes Tribunal.

Ms. Jayalalithaa pointed out that the Bhavani was a tributary of an inter-State river. The sharing of water in the Cauvery basin, including that of the Bhavani, was now under adjudication.

Kerala, while furnishing information to the Tribunal, mentioned that irrigation in the Attapadi valley had been extended to utilise 4.5 tmcft. While this was so, Tamil Nadu was concerned that Kerala now proposed to launch another new scheme of constructing a weir across the Bhavani near Mukkali village to divert water to the west, outside the basin.

The question arose whether any diversion of water outside the Cauvery, which itself was a deficit basin, was permissible when the issue was before the Tribunal for a settlement.

The Chief Minister also brought to Kerala's notice that any new scheme for use of water in the Cauvery by any other party-State had to be undertaken only with the consent of the basin States. Thus, it would not be proper for Kerala to launch a scheme, which was reported to cost about Rs 2.75 crores, even without bringing it to the notice of the Tribunal.

If the scheme was taken up, she feared, Tamil Nadu's use of water would be badly affected and practically no water would flow below the Kerala border in the Bhavani valley. As the drought-prone areas of Coimbatore district were fully dependent on Bhavani water for drinking and irrigation, it would not be fair on the part of Kerala to go ahead with the scheme, as trans-basin diversion should await the final Tribunal award.

Ms. Jayalalithaa said she had been getting representations, from farmers in the Bhavani valley downstream, that if the scheme was taken up by Kerala, their use of water would be badly affected and practically no water would flow below the Kerala border.

``In the above circumstances, I request you to kindly reconsider the matter and desist from taking further action on the construction of the proposed weir, until the Cauvery dispute is settled by the Tribunal,'' she said.

Already leaders of various parties in the State opposed the Kerala proposal and urged the Centre and the Tamil Nadu Government to prevail upon that State not go ahead with the scheme.

According to water managers, the proposal, if implemented, would severely affect irrigation for about two lakh hectares. Besides, if Bhavani water was stopped, the flow in the Cauvery would also be affected. Despite many representations on the adverse impact of the project, Kerala had not responded. As the issue would have far-reaching implications for the State's rural economy, Tamil Nadu, they said, should take immediate steps to prevent Kerala going ahead with its proposal.

Meanwhile, a public interest litigation petition challenging the Kerala proposal is pending before the Madras High Court.