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This objection came a day after media reports claimed that the Karnataka Irrigation Ministry under DK Shivakumar would prioritise building the Mekedatu dam over Cauvery river.
Tamil Nadu reiterated its opposition on Wednesday, May 31, to Karnataka building a dam across the Cauvery river at Mekedatu. This objection came a day after media reports claimed that the Karnataka Irrigation Ministry under DK Shivakumar would prioritise building the Mekedatu damn over Cauvery river. Tamil Nadu’s Minister for Water Resources Durai Murugan said that the state government would “oppose the proposal at all levels.” In January 2022, the Congress, which was then in the Opposition, had launched a padayatra seeking the implementation of the Mekedatu drinking water project. The Mekedatu project has been stalled since 2019 because the Tamil Nadu government had moved the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the construction.
A statement issued by Durai Murugan said that the proposed dam at Mekedatu was not welcomed and would adversely affect Tamil Nadu. The primary opposition to the project from Tamil Nadu is because Karnataka did not get their consent before approving of the construction, as mandated by the Inter-State River Water Disputes Act. Another concern raised by the Tamil Nadu government was that Karnataka would hoard water in the dam and not release sufficient water after storing the necessary amount. In March 2022, the state Assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning Karnataka for the Mekedatu project and urged the union government to not give approval for the same.
Durai Murugan expressed confidence that he would be able to meet DK Shivakumar soon and that they would discuss the issue in detail then. The Tamil Nadu Minister further urged DK Shivakumar to be patient until their meeting.
Durai Murugan also expressed surprise that DK Shivakumar would choose to take a confrontational attitude with Tamil Nadu over the river water dispute. “I am surprised that Shivakumar, within days of assuming office, is adopting an aggressive attitude towards neighbouring states. I believe officers would not have given him a detailed briefing on the Mekedatu issue,” Durai Murugan said.
Meanwhile, the key opposition party in Tamil Nadu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), said that they would stage protests if Karnataka went ahead with the dam construction. According to reports, the AIADMK also said that the construction of the dam is an “attempt to transform Tamil Nadu into a desert.” AIADMK party chief Edappadi K Palaniswami said the final verdict on the Cauvery issue stated that no irrigation project should be undertaken without the approval of the lower riparian states (states that are on the banks of the lower part of the water body). The 2018 verdict in the Cauvery river water dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka stated that the river is a “national asset” and no single state can claim complete ownership over its waters. The Supreme Court stated that the water sharing arrangement between the two states (Karnataka must supply 177.25 tmc from Billigundlu to Mettur in Tamil Nadu) must not be changed for 15 years.
The Mekedatu project was initially introduced in 1948 but has undergone many changes in terms of scope over the years. In 1966, the Karnataka Power Corporation drew up its first plan for the Metekadu project with the intention of fulfilling the water and electricity needs of the people in and around Bengaluru. The state government then announced the project in 2013 and a detailed plan was submitted to the union government in 2019. Due to legal battles between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the dam construction, estimated to cost Rs 9,000 crore, has not been undertaken.
In March 2022, then Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai stated that the people of the state are confident that BJP can bring water from the Mekedatu project to fulfill the drinking water needs of Bengaluru. Meanwhile, the Congress had accused the BJP in January 2022 and said that the ‘double engine government’ at the union level and the state are delaying the implementation of the Mekedatu project.
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