Interstate River Water Dispute

Mekedatu Dam Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mekedatu Project

Mains level: Inter-state river disputes

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are again at the crossroads against the Mekedatu dam project in the Cauvery River Basin.

What is the Mekedatu Project?

  • Mekedatu, meaning goat’s leap, is a deep gorge situated at the confluence of the rivers Cauvery and Arkavathi, about 100 km from Bengaluru, at the Kanakapura taluk in Karnataka’s Ramanagara district.
  • In 2013, then Karnataka announced the construction of a multi-purpose balancing reservoir project.
  • The project aimed to alleviate the drinking water problems of the Bengaluru and Ramanagara districts.
  • It was also expected to generate hydroelectricity to meet the power needs of the state.

Issues with the project

  • Soon after the project was announced TN has objected over granting of permission or environmental clearance.
  • Explaining the potential for damage to the lower riparian state of TN, it said that the project was in violation of the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
  • It stated that the project will affect the natural flow of the river Cauvery considerably and will severely affect the irrigation in TN.

What do the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and the Supreme Court say?

  • The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, in its final order on February 2007, made allocations to all the riparian States — Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, apart from the Union Territory of Puducherry.
  • It also stipulated “tentative monthly deliveries during a normal year” to be made available by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu.
  • Aggrieved over the final order for different reasons, the States had appealed to the Supreme Court.
  • In February 2018, the court, in its judgment, revised the water allocation and increased the share of Karnataka by 14.75 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) at the cost of Tamil Nadu.
  • The enhanced quantum comprised 4.75 tmc ft for meeting drinking water and domestic requirements of Bengaluru and surrounding areas.

What is Karnataka planning?

  • Encouraged by the Supreme Court verdict, Karnataka, which sees the order as an endorsement of its stand, has set out to pursue the Mekedatu project.
  • Originally proposed as a hydropower project, the revised Mekedatu dam project has more than one purpose to serve.
  • A hydropower plant of nearly 400 MW has also been proposed.
  • The Karnataka government has argued that the proposed reservoir will regulate the flow to Tamil Nadu on a monthly basis, as stipulated by the Tribunal and the Supreme Court.
  • This is why Karnataka has contended that the project will not affect the interests of Tamil Nadu farmers.

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