No nod for Mekedatu project without Cauvery panel approval: Centre

The Centre has given its assurance that Karnataka will not be allowed to carry out any construction on the Mekedatu dam project on the Cauvery river until approvals are granted by the Central Water Commission (CWC) and the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA), according to members of an all party delegation from Tamil Nadu who met Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat on Friday. However, Mr. Shekhawat declined their demand that the Centre withdraw it’s permission allowing Karnataka to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) on the disputed dam.

CWC chairperson S.K. Haldar, who was present at the meeting, also confirmed that the project would not be allowed to proceed without CWMA approval, but said no timeline could be given for the project proposal to be considered by the Authority.

The 13-member delegation, which included representatives from the opposition AIADMK and the BJP’s TN unit as well, was led by DMK leader and State Water Resources Minister S. Duraimurugan.

The team handed over a memorandum which noted that “the implementation of Mekedatu project would affect the interests of Tamil Nadu’s farming community. It is an attempt to impound the uncontrolled flows in violation of the Final Award delivered by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal as affirmed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.”

The delegation also submitted a copy of the resolutions adopted by an all party meeting chaired by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on July 12.

Earlier this month, Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa announced plans to go forward with the long-pending Mekedatu project, meant to cater to the drinking water needs of Bengaluru and its environs. Estimated to cost ₹9,000 crore, the project envisages a 67 tmc ft capacity dam just 4 km from the TN border and a 400 MW hydropower plant.

“Mr. Shekhawat assured us that there is no possibility of Karnataka going forward on Mekedatu without CWMA approval. He said that is a non-negotiable prerequisite of the no objection certificate given by the Centre,” Mr. Duraimurugan told The Hindu after the meeting. He added that delegates had raised concerns about the fact that the CWMA has not had a full time chairperson for the last three years.

AIADMK leader and former Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar said the delegates vociferously questioned Mr. Shekhawat about his alleged statements in Bengaluru last week that Karnataka’s interests would be taken care of.

“He insisted that he had not given any such statements. He assured us that he would be impartial on this issue,” said Mr. Jayakumar.

Congress representative A. Gopanna expressed some unease with the fact that the Union Minister said the DPR itself would not be cancelled.

“He said that ‘we have given a conditional approval for the DPR, but there is no need to worry as one of the conditions is the CWMA approval’,” Mr Gopanna said, adding that an environmental clearance has not been given either.

“What is significant is that all parties in Tamil Nadu have united on this issue for the first time and vowed to fight together for the farmers of the State,” he said.