Mekedatu Water Project- UPSC Current Affairs

Mekedatu Water Project

Today’s edition of the Current Affairs Dialog box will comprise a discussion on Mekedatu Water Project and its relevance to the UPSC CSE syllabus. This topic forms an integral part of the UPSC exam preparation and should be studied in depth in your UPSC coaching.

For Prelims: Mekedatu Water Project, Challenges in the Project and Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.

For Mains: Views of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Government, Conclusion.

Click here to read yesterday’s edition of the Current Affairs Dialog box, in case you missed it.

Why in the News?

Recently, the Tamil Nadu assembly unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Karnataka government for its ‘unilateral decision’ to construct the Mekedatu dam across the river Cauvery.

Mekedatu

Image Source: The Indian Express

Probable Question

The resolution of Inter-State water disputes is a test of the effectiveness of Cooperative Federalism. Comment

Key Points

About Mekedatu Water Project

  • Originally mooted in 1948, Mekedatu (which translates as Goat’s crossing) is a drinking water cum power generation project up to 400 MW.
  •  Its primary objective is to supply drinking water to Bengaluru and recharge the groundwater table in the region.
  • The project is proposed at the confluence of Cauvery with its tributary Arkavathi. 
  • Estimated cost: ₹9,000 crores
  • It was set up by the Karnataka government, the project is near Mekedatu, in Ramanagaram district of Karnataka, across the river Cauvery from Tamil Nadu.
  • Its proposed capacity is 48 TMC (thousand million cubic feet).

Challenges

  • The project requires multiple clearances from the Centre and courts as it involves the Cauvery water sharing dispute.
  • Large portions of forest land will be submerged if the reservoir is built. 
  • Environmentalists have raised concerns about an elephant corridor that would be covered by the proposed reservoir.

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

  • The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal, in its final order in February 2007, made allocations to all the riparian States — Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, apart from the Union Territory of Puducherry.
    • It granted 419 tmcft of water to Tamil Nadu, 270 tmcft to Karnataka, 30 tmcft to Kerala, and 7 tmcft to Puducherry. 
    • The tribunal ordered that in rain-scarcity years, the allocation for all would stand reduced.
    •  It also stipulated “tentative monthly deliveries during a normal year” to be made available by Karnataka to Tamil Nadu.
  •  In February 2018, the Supreme Court, in its judgment, revised the water allocation and increased the share of Karnataka by 14.75 thousand million cubic feet (tmcft) at the cost of Tamil Nadu while the share for Kerala and Puducherry remained unchanged.
  • The enhanced quantum comprised 4.75 tmcft for meeting drinking water and domestic requirements of Bengaluru and surrounding areas.

Karnataka’s Stand

  • Karnataka has maintained that the project within its territory will benefit both states as the surplus water stored can be managed between the two during a distress year, and its implementation will in no way affect the interests of Tamil Nadu’s farming communities, as there will be no impact on its share of water.

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Tamil Nadu’s Stand

  • The project would “impound and divert” the uncontrolled water flow due to Tamil Nadu from Kabini sub-basin, the catchment area below Krishnarajasagara, and also from Simsha, Arkavathy, and Suvarnavathi sub-basins besides other small streams.
  • The Mekedatu zone represented the last free point from where water from the Cauvery flowed unrestricted into the downstream state of Tamil Nadu from the upstream Karnataka. 
    • Hence, the construction of a dam there would leave Tamil Nadu beholden to Karnataka for the release of its just share of water.
  • The project violates the final award of the Cauvery River Water Tribunal. 
Kaveri River:

It rises in Brahmagiri hills (1,341m) of Kogadu district in Karnataka. 

The river carries water throughout the year with comparatively less fluctuation than the other Peninsular rivers. 

The upper catchment area receives rainfall during the southwest monsoon season (summer) while the lower part during the northeast monsoon season (winter).

About 3 percent of the Kaveri basin falls in Kerala, 41 percent in Karnataka, and 56 percent in Tamil Nadu.

Left Bank Tributaries: Herangi, Hemvati, Shimsha, Akravaty, etc. 

Right Bank Tributaries: Kabini, Bhavani, Amravati, Lakshmana tirtha, Noyyal, etc.

Cauvery Water Dispute: A Brief Overview

  • The river Cauvery originates in Karnataka’s Kodagu district, flows into Tamil Nadu, and reaches the Bay of Bengal. 
  • Parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Pondicherry lie in the Cauvery basin. 
  • The legal dispute over the waters of the Cauvery has a long history and has its origins in agreements signed in 1892 and 1924 between the erstwhile princely state of Mysore and the Madras Presidency. 
  • The Centre constituted the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) in 1990 to resolve the dispute following a Supreme Court order. 
    • In 2007, the tribunal declared its final award, in which it said Tamil Nadu should receive 419 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water more than double the amount mentioned in the interim order of 1991.
Mekedatu

Image Source: The Hindu

  • In August 2016, the Tamil Nadu government said that there was a deficit of 50.0052 tmcft of water released from Karnataka. The Karnataka government said it wouldn’t be able to release any more Cauvery water due to low rainfall. Tamil Nadu then sought Supreme Court’s intervention.
  • On Sept 5, 2017, the SC ordered the Karnataka government to release 15,000 cusecs of water a day for 10 days, to Tamil Nadu. This led to widespread protests and bandhs in Karnataka. 
  • After several modifications of the order, as of Oct 18, the Karnataka government has been directed by SC to release 2,000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu till further orders.
  • The apex court on February 16, 2018, gave its final verdict saying that Karnataka will get an additional 14.75 TMC of river water and Tamil Nadu will get 177.25 instead of 192 TMC water. 
  • The court considered the water scarcity in Bengaluru while delivering the final judgment and also said no deviance shall be shown by any state to the order.

Also read: Par Tapi Narmada River-Linking Project

Interstate River Water Governance in India

Article 262 of the Constitution provides for the adjudication of inter-state water disputes. 

It makes two provisions: 

Parliament may by law provide for the adjudication of any dispute or complaint with respect to the use, distribution, and control of waters of any inter-state river and river valley.

Parliament may also provide that neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to exercise jurisdiction in respect of any such dispute or complaint.

So far, the Parliament has enacted two laws: 

The River Boards Act (1956): The River Boards Act provides for the establishment of river boards for the regulation and development of inter-state river and river valleys. 

A river board is established by the Central government at the request of the state governments concerned to advise them.

The Inter-State Water Disputes Act (1956): Empowers the Central government to set up an ad hoc tribunal for the adjudication of a dispute between two or more states in relation to the waters of an inter-state river or river valley. 

The decision of the tribunal would be final and binding on the parties to the dispute.

Neither the Supreme Court nor any other court is to have jurisdiction in respect of any water dispute which may be referred to such a tribunal under this Act. 

Way Forward

  • States need to move away from the short-sightedness regional approach as the solution lies in cooperation instead of conflict. There should be a mechanism of planning at the basin level to make sustainable and ecologically viable solutions for river water usage.
  • The focus should be on strengthening the existing and evolving institutional mechanisms and accommodating political sensitivities to find a long-term and mutually amicable path for the governance of interstate river water.

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