HD Deve Gowda pushes for Mekedatu project after DMK opposes it in its manifesto

Deve Gowda justified the construction of the dam in the Cauvery river saying that it was essential to ensure the water needs of Bengaluru.

BySouth First Desk

Published Mar 24, 2024 | 3:16 PMUpdatedMar 24, 2024 | 9:03 PM

File photo of HD Deve Gowda.

Following the ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu announcing in its manifesto that it would halt the construction of the Mekedatu project, the JD(S) in Karnataka said it would include the project in its manifesto.

In a letter dated Sunday, 24 March, JD(S) chief and former prime minister HD Deve Gowda justified the construction of the Mekedatu dam on the Cauvery river saying that it was essential to ensure the water needs of Bengaluru.

The DMK, a key constituent of the INDIA bloc led by the Congress, in its manifesto released on 20 March, promised to stop the construction of the Mekedatu dam.

However, the Karnataka Congress chief and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar asserted on 21 March that he had taken responsibility as Irrigation Minister to implement the Mekedatu project across the Cauvery river.

Also Read: Karnataka moves SC against Centre seeking immediate release of NDRF funds

Intended to provide drinking water

Deve Gowda said that the Mekedatu project intended to provide drinking water to Bengaluru City and regulated water release to Tamil Nadu during lean periods.

He said that currently, 18 TMC of water is supplied to Bengaluru from the Cauvery water supply scheme, with a population of 1.35 crore.

However, he said, the water requirement would reach 72.4 TMC in 2044 as the population of the city is expected to reach 3 crore and to meet that demand a balancing reservoir at the Mekedatu site across Cauvery near the Tamil Nadu border was required.

Deve Gowda stated the numbers referring to a report by the Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewage Board (BWSS and DB).

The pre-feasibility report of the project was submitted to the Ministry of Water Resources in 2018 and the permission to prepare a Detailed Project Report was obtained by the state in November 2018.

He said the DPR was prepared and submitted in January 2019 and sent to the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) for their consideration and approval.

He added that it has been pending for the past five years.

Also Read: Shivakumar backs Mekedatu after DMK manifesto promises to stop it

‘Tamil Nadu will benefit’

Deve Gowda further said that the project, with a reservoir capacity of 60 TMC, was only intended for drinking water supply to Bengaluru and that Tamil Nadu would substantially benefit from it.

“In fact, Tamil Nadu will be benefitted substantially by this project as it will get regulated release of water instead of getting uncontrolled seasonal flood waters that may ultimately goes to the sea,” he said.

He further said that the CWMA and the Tamil Nadu government did not take into consideration the comments of the Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir Project cum Drinking Water Project, Project Appraisal (South) Directorate of Central Water Commission which estimated in May 2019 that the balance available at Biligundlu fo Karnataka had been estimated at 30.65 TMC.

“One more important admission made by the Tamil Nadu Counsel namely Shri Shekar Apade in Civil Appeal No.2553-2007, Civil Appeal No 2454-2007, Civil Appeal No 2456-2007 between Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Vs Chief Secretary Government of Karnataka he submitted before the Supreme Court that the State of Karnataka ought to consider building a dam above the Mettruru Reservoir to solve their water problem,” he added.

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Urges PM to issue directions

Deve Gowda also said that he had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2023 requesting to issue directions to the Ministry of Jalshakiti to address the issues. The issues he had listed were.

  • To appoint an external agency, independent of the party states and the Union government, which has expertise in the field of Integrated Reservoirs Operation Studies, to conduct the studies of all the identified/designated reservoirs in the Cauvery basin, immediately. The report of the studies shall be placed before the CWRC and CWMA for consideration in consultation with the party states.
  • The same external agency should also be vested with the responsibility of deriving a suitable distress formula taking into consideration all factors like the deficiency in rainfall, inflows, reservoir levels, storage positions, crop water requirements, drinking water requirements, the different monsoons in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, actual utilisations under various categories, mandatory discharges to be made by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu etc for different scenarios.
  • To appoint a committee of five experts, not in any way connected to the party states and the Union government, to immediately undertake visits to all the reservoirs of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to take stock of the prevailing ground realities and report not only to the CWMA for taking appropriate action but also to the Supreme Court, as a measure of immediate relief.
  • The CWMA and the CWRC shall make periodical visits to all the identified/designated reservoirs in the Cauvery basin, preferably once every 15 days, to assess the ground realities instead of relying only on the records placed before them.

He also highlighted the remarks made by the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary on 1 February, that “litigation is pending in the case of Mekedatu and CWMA can carry out deliberations.”

“However, I had written a letter to the PM and Jalashakti Minister requesting them to direct the CWMA to carry out periodical designated reservoir operation studies both in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to ascertain the ground reality and water utilisation by both the states as per the orders of Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal,” he said.

Also Read: Tamil Nadu opposes inclusion of Mekedatu dam project in CWMA agenda

Details of construction

A separate Project Division and two Sub-Divisions have already been set up to implement the ambitious Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir and drinking water project of the Cauvery river valley, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, presenting the state budget last month.

A survey to identify land that will be submerged under this project and the counting process of trees have already been initiated, he had also said, adding “Action will be taken on priority to commence the work early after obtaining remaining necessary clearances from the competent authorities.”

Mekedatu is a multi-purpose (drinking water and power) project proposed by Karnataka, which involves building a balancing reservoir near Kanakapura in Ramanagara district.

Neighbouring Tamil Nadu has been opposing the project, raising apprehensions that the state would be affected if the project takes shape.

The project, once completed, is aimed at ensuring drinking water to Bengaluru and neighbouring areas (4.75 TMC) and also can generate 400 MW of power, and the estimated cost of the project is ₹9,000 crore (2019 rates).

(Edited by Muhammed Fazil)