What is the Mekedetu Dam Project?

India Aug 08, 2021

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Mekedatu is a Rs. 9,000 crore project proposed by Karnataka at Ontigondlu. Mekedatu, meaning goat’s leap, is a deep gorge situated at the confluence of the river Cauvery and its tributary Arkavathi. This lies about 100 km from Bengaluru, at the Kanakapura taluk in Karnataka’s Ramanagara district. This project aims to solve the drinking water problems of Bengaluru and surrounding areas. It also proposed the generation of hydroelectricity to me.et the power needs of the state, intending to produce at least 400MW of power.

Tracing back to the history of this dispute, there have been numerous protests between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu over sharing of this river. This dispute first began in 1892,  between the erstwhile Presidency of Madras, which was under British rule, and the princely state of Mysore when the latter proposed to build irrigation systems on the Cauvery River. In 1924, an agreement was reached paving the way for the construction of the Krishnaraja Sagar dam and spelling out what the different states’ allocations would be as regards the Cauvery waters.In 1990 the tribunal was set up which made its final award in 2007 , by granting 419 tmcft of water to Tamil Nadu, 270 tmcft to Karnataka, 30 tmcft to Kerala and 7 tmcft to Puducherry, followed by reduction of resources during the rain-scarcity years. This proposal brought in an increased rate of protests in both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The recent version of the project, was proposed in 2013, and announced by then Karnataka Law Minister T.B. Jayachandra.The Supreme Court intervened again in the matter in 2018, by releasing a judgement to allocate 404.25 tmcft for Tamil Nadu, Karnataka’s share went up to 284.75 tmcft while for Kerala and Puducherry the share remained unchanged. In 2020, the  Cauvery Water Management Authority and the Supreme Court found out that the existing storage facilities available in the Cauvery basin were adequate to meet the needs of Karnataka which led to rejection of the proposal.

For a long time, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have always been in a dispute over sharing the waters of the Cauvery River, and are yet again at the crossroads against the Mekedatu dam project in the Cauvery River Basin. The Centre has restricted the allowance to carry forward the construction of the dam until its Detailed Project Report is approved by the Cauvery Water Management Authority. The project is projected to have some issues. Tamil Nadu has objected, saying that the construction would restrict the flow of the Cauvery river into their State. This is also held by the Supreme Court, as no state can attest rights to deprive other states of the waters of inter-state rivers. This restriction to the flow of the river could severely affect irrigation in the already lower riparian state of  Tamil Nadu. As per the reports, the dam would submerge parts of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary and also affect the Bannerghatta National Park and Chamarajanagar forests.

The concern for the damages that the construction of the Mekedatu Dam is likely to project have been actively raised by political, agricultural and environmental activists. However, it's the final and abiding decision by the Supreme Court that is really needed to come to a conclusion of this standing project.

This article has been written by Sharon John for The Paradigm

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