The Mekedatu stretch of the Cauvery where Karnataka intends to construct a reservoir.
Mekedatu, meaning ‘goat crossing’ or ‘goat leap’ in Kannada, refers to a rocky, narrow area of the Cauvery river in southern Karnataka. It is here that the state government wants to build a reservoir for storing water meant to generate electricity and provide drinking water to Bengaluru as well as its neighbouring areas.
The Central Water Commission has given its in-principle approval for preparing a detailed project report — or DPR — in this connection. Karnataka views this as an initial victory, and is forging ahead with its plans for the Rs 5,000-crore project capable of storing 66 TMC feet of water. The project, if cleared, may take about three years to complete.
The state’s former chief ministers and irrigation ministers will meet in Bengaluru on Thursday to discuss the issue. Irrigation Minister DK Shivakumar is slated to conduct a site visit along with officials the next day.
However, trouble is brewing down south. Although Karnataka maintains that the project will not affect the flow of water to lower-riparian Tamil Nadu, their bitter history over the Cauvery — complete with pitched battles in court and on the streets – has made the neighbouring state suspicious.
Tamil Nadu — which suspects that Karnataka intends to extend the area under irrigation — has asked the Centre to withdraw permission for the DPR, and not allow any projects on the Cauvery without the consent of other riparian states. The EK Palaniswamy government also claims that the Modi government’s nod for the Mekedatu project report violates the Cauvery tribunal’s verdict.
The Tamil Nadu assembly will meet for a special session to discuss the Mekedatu issue on Thursday. Opposition leader MK Stalin led a massive protest against the project in Trichy yesterday, placing all the blame on the Narendra Modi government. “If Modi decides to cheat, he will not be able to enter Tamil Nadu. Has he forgotten the last time he landed here to a black flag demonstration?” he asked.
Even the Tamil Nadu BJP is against the centre’s stand on the matter. However, with the general elections looming ahead, the Modi government is in a tough spot over how it is going to handle such an emotive issue.