In a setback to Tamil Nadu which challenged the authority of the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) to deliberate on the project report for setting up the Mekedatu reservoir proposed by Karnataka, the Supreme Court on Wednesday (20 July) permitted the authority to hold discussions but to not record any deliberations.
Tamil Nadu had sought urgent directions regarding the same and senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi submitted that the hearing before the CWMA has been pending for two years. To which Justice Khanwilkar of the three member bench that is hearing the case said that “If it is pending since 2018, it can wait till next week,” as reported by Live Law.
“What is the difficulty? Instead of these piecemeal submissions, we can hear and pass orders next week,” he said and suggested that "discussions can take place, but the authority will not record deliberation till Tuesday.
The court thereby adjourned the matter till 26 July 2022 asking the secretary of the Cauvery Water Management Authority to be present before it.
At the same time, Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai on Wednesday said the final verdict on the Mekedatu project across river Cauvery is expected by next week.
Addressing the media after offering ‘Bagina’ to river Cauvery at the Krishna Raja Sagar dam, Bommai said work on the project would be taken up after getting the clearance for the Detailed Project Report (DPR), which has already been prepared by the state.
'The proposed Mekedatu project would meet the drinking water needs of Bengaluru and Mandya. Action is being taken to get necessary clearances for the project,' Bommai said.
Referring to work being undertaken to modernise the canal networks in the Cauvery river basin, Bommai said about 15 lakh acres are under irrigation in the basin which can be expanded with the completion of these works. Regarding Visvesvaraya canal, the Chief Minister said it is being modernised at a cost of Rs 560 crore.
The Mekedatu project in Kanakapura in Ramanagara district is a contentious issue between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu with the neighbouring state in the lower riparian of Cauvery stating that it will hurt the interest of its people, especially the farmers.
It is a project proposed by the Government of Karnataka which envisages the construction of a reservoir of 67.16-tmc ft capacity, about 4 km away from the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border, along with a hydropower plant of nearly 400 MW capacity. The estimated cost of the project is around Rs 9,000 crore.
Tamil Nadu opposes the project because it feels that it will adversely impact the amount of water it gets, particularly from "uncontrolled catchments". It argues that the Mekedatu project will impound and divert their flow.
The flow from "uncontrolled catchments" was taken into account by the Tribunal in the 2007 order.
As per an estimate, around 80 tmc ft of water flows annually to Tamil Nadu, thanks to the catchments, including the area between Kabini dam in Karnataka and Billigundulu gauging site on the inter-State border, and the area between the Krishnaraja Sagar dam in Karnataka and the gauging site.
Both the Tribunal's final order and the Supreme Court judgment don't mention the Mekedatu project. Tamil Nadu says that Karnataka already has adequate infrastructure to address the water needs of Bengaluru, and there is no need for the Mekedatu project.
On the other hand, the Karnataka government has argued that even after the project, Tamil Nadu will get its designated share of water.
(With inputs from PTI)
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