No Mekedatu ripples as Cauvery management body meets after long

No Mekedatu ripples as Cauvery management body meets after long

Opposition from Tamil Nadu farmers and the Puducherry government to the Mekedatu dam project reflected in the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) meeting held in New Delhi on Tuesday (August 31). Karnataka’s demand (for building the dam) was not discussed at all because the matter is sub judice.

This is Cauvery Water Management Authority’s first physical meeting in two years, with two of its member states – Tamil Nadu and Karnataka – participating in person while two others – Puducherry and Kerala – attending online.

Instead of Mekedatu, the issue of Karnataka not releasing sufficient water for Tamil Nadu dominated the discussion. As per the CWMA rules, Karnataka should have released about 86.38 TMC water during July-August, but it released only 55.75 TMC water.

Earlier, Tamil Nadu vociferously objected to Karnataka’s demand for a discussion on building a dam on Cauvery river at Mekedatu, citing pending trial in the Supreme Court. Puducherry too opposed a discussion on the issue stating that the Union Territory’s assembly had passed a resolution against the project.

Tamil Nadu farmers’ opposition

Recently, Tamil Nadu farmers had opposed the Karnataka government’s adamance  on including the Mekedatu issue in the CWMA meeting agenda.

WATCH: Decoding ecological impact of the Mekedatu Dam project

Tamil Nadu farmers are opposed to the project because they argue that surplus water from Cauvery is the right of the lower riparian states. At a time when Karnataka is not even heeding to Supreme Court judgement on releasing specified amount of water for Tamil Nadu, stopping surplus water will affect farmers from not only Tamil Nadu but also Puducherry and Kerala.

“Without the permission of the Supreme Court and CWMA, the Karnataka government submitted a detailed project report (DPR) to the Central Water Commission (CWC). The report was also forwarded to CWMA. Without the consent of other three basin states (Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala), the CWMA cannot give a go ahead to the project. In fact, the CWMA shouldn’t have accepted the DPR in the first place,” said PR Pandian, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Cauvery Farmers’ Association.

Pandian cited media reports in which Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai claimed that Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, the Union minister for Jal Shakti Ministry, has promised early approval of Mekedatu project and assured that a discussion on DPR would be included in the meeting.

“This raises doubts about Centre’s indirect support to Karnataka,” said Pandian. It is against this backdrop that farmers, headed by Pandian, met Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and sought Kerala’s support for Tamil Nadu’s demand.

Also read: TN farmers oppose Mekedatu project, but want a new dam at Rasimanal

“Since Kerala is also one of the riparian states, we sought the support of the Kerala CM against the Mekedatu project. The chief minister responded positively. However, the Tamil Nadu government should seek official support from Kerala, which has sadly not come yet,” Pandian said.

A backstory on Cauvery

Firstly, the Central Water Commission (CWC) allowed Karnataka to prepare a DPR on the dam project. The DPR was submitted to CWC in January 2020 and then forwarded to the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA). While answering a question related to the Mekedatu issue in Lok Sabha on August 5, Union minister Shekhawat admitted that no discussion happened on the DPR during several of CWMA meetings. “Discussion could not take place due to lack of consensus among party states on this agenda item,” he had said then.

Earlier, Tamil Nadu Water Resources Minister Durai Murugan said that when he met Shekhawat in New Delhi, the latter assured him that the Jal Shakti ministry will accept the DPR only when the other three states (Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala) agree to it.

In its plea to the Supreme Court, the Tamil Nadu government argued that the “CWC is an implementing agency (of projects like Mekedatu) and is bound to honour the court’s judgement, but instead it proceeded to entertain the proposal (Megedatu)”.

“In 2018, when the issue came up for discussion in one of the CWMA meetings, Tamil Nadu made sure no discussion happens on the DPR. But how come the CWMA included the matter in the agenda this time? If the matter is taken up without the permission of the other three lower riparian states, it means that the Union government considers these three states as a conquered one,” said Prof T Jayaraman, an environmental activist based in Thanjavur, a delta district in Tamil Nadu.

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