Cauvery dispute: BJP in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka at loggerheads over Mekedatu Dam

Mekedatu Dam is a 9000-crore project aimed to provide drinking facilities to Bengaluru and adjacent areas as well as generate power.

Back in the 1920s, the Madras Presidency opposed the construction of the KRS Dam. However, the agreement was signed and Tamil Nadu was given permission to construct the Mettur dam. Image Courtesy: Facebook.

The Cauvery water issue has been a bone of contention between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for more than 100 years. The Karnataka government has decided to build a dam at Mekedatu for providing water mainly for drinking purposes in difficult situations. This latest move of Karnataka has aggrieved the state of Tamil Nadu and the opposition party BJP in Tamil Nadu has taken up the issue.

BJP Tamil Nadu President K Annamalai went on a one-day hunger strike last week to protest against the decision.

Basvaraj Bommai, Karnataka CM responding to the incident said that there will not be any compromise on the construction of the dam and that Tamil Nadu is opposing the matter only for the sake of politics.’ I don’t care who goes on strike’ he said, even if it be his own party’s counterpart in TN, Karnataka will go ahead with the project.

Anamalai, a former IPS officer from the Karnataka cadre said that he will not respond to Bommai’s remarks but his party unit in TN stands together with him for the cause.

CT Ravi, BJP National General Secretary from Chikkamagaluru, who is in charge of Tamil Nadu iterated on the need to prioritize the welfare of the people and arrive at a middle point.  “It should neither be viewed as a political matter nor as an emotional issue. It has to be practical. Mekedatu hopes to provide drinking water to Bengaluru and people from across the country — even Tamilians — living in Bengaluru.” Ravi said.

Karnataka Justifies its stance that its action is as per the laws while TN defends its position stating that construction of a dam on the river must involve all the states associated.

Cauvery Water Dispute 

Cauvery is a perennial river of Southern India that flows through the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and the Union Territory of Puducherry. The river merges with the Bay of Bengal. It is a major source of drinking water supply and water for agriculture purposes in Tamil Nadu. Both the states have been unable to reach a unanimous decision over the 765-km long river that flows through both these neighboring states.

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The issue began back in the 1890s when the Madras Presidency (under the British Raj) and the Mysore state (a princely state) could not decide on how to divide the river’s water between the two entities. In 1924, an agreement was signed and the Mysore state was allowed to build the KRS dam and Madras, the Mettur dam.

Tamil Nadu has always opposed the construction of dams by Karnataka on the river. However, in the period between 1960 and the late 1980s, Karnataka built four dams on Cauvery including the one in Kabini. Arguments ensued and the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) was formed in 1990 to look into the matter and settle the dispute. The Cauvery River Authority (CRA) was formed in 1998 to implement the interim order of the CWDT.

SC ruled a verdict in 2018. The verdict directs Karnataka to release 404.25 tmcft annually to TN. This verdict will be in effect for the next 15 years. Recently, the contention between the two neighboring states has started over the Mekedatu project. This is a project that remains constant through the governments, with the Karnataka Congress supporting the cause as well.

The Mekedatu Project

Karnataka plans to build a reservoir in Ramnagara at the confluence of Cauvery and its tributary Arkavathi. It is a 9000-crore project aimed to provide drinking facilities to Bengaluru and adjacent areas as well as generate power.

The planning of this project has been going on since 1948, especially as a means of generating power. If constructed, the reservoir would have a water capacity of 67,000 million cubic feet and generate around 400 MW of power.


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