Nod given to CWMA to discuss Mekedatu

June 07, 2022 12:00 am | Updated 05:40 am IST - CHENNAI

Meeting scheduled on June 17

Cauvery flows through a deep and narrow gorge at Mekedatu, near Kanakapura, in Ramanagaram district.file photoK. MURALI KUMAR

Cauvery flows through a deep and narrow gorge at Mekedatu, near Kanakapura, in Ramanagaram district.file photoK. MURALI KUMAR

Armed with a favourable legal opinion, the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) will take up the Rs. 9,000-crore Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir-cum-Drinking Water Project of the Karnataka government for discussion at its meeting to be held on June 17.

Confirming this, S.K. Haldar, CWMA Chairman, told The Hindu on Monday that the Authority had earlier sought an opinion from the Union Law Ministry, which, in turn, referred the matter to Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta. A source, familiar with the development, says the SG took a position that the CWMA had “wide powers” to deliberate on any matter concerning the Cauvery. Mr. Haldar pointed out that the opinion was obtained after the CWMA’s previous meeting [held in February]. Kerala had then said the June 2018 notification of the Union Ministry of Jal Shakti did not speak about CWMA’s powers on approval of projects.

But, the stand of the Union Ministry, as stated in a reply to an unstarred question in the Lok Sabha in February 2022, is that the “acceptance” of the (CWMA) would be a “prerequisite” for consideration of the detailed project report by the Advisory Committee of the Ministry.

In the last couple of years, the Authority had included the Mekedatu project as one of the items on the agenda of its meetings. While Karnataka had pressed for discussion, Tamil Nadu had opposed any move to deliberate on the project, citing cases in the Supreme Court on the project. The CWMA had too deferred the matter.

As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, the Mekedatu project will be in violation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s final order, as modified by the Supreme Court in February 2018. This is why it should not be taken up at the outset for any discussion.

To substantiate further, a spokesperson of the State says the proposed project is aimed at impounding the Cauvery river water, flowing from “uncontrolled catchments” downstream of Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) and Kabini to Tamil Nadu. But, the Tribunal, in the fifth volume of the order (chapter VII, Page 207), specifically states that the portion in question constituted one of the three components of the annual quantum of water to be delivered by Karnataka at the inter-State contact point Billigundulu, the other two components being “regulated releases” from the two reservoirs in Karnataka.

The total annual quantum prescribed by the Supreme Court for Tamil Nadu is 177.25 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) in a year. Of this, 80 tmcft is estimated to be coming from the “uncontrolled catchments” below Kabini and KRS. The Mekedatu project will interfere with the flow of this portion of the State’s due, the spokesperson points out.

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