Updated: March 6, 2022 12:48:03 pm
As Opposition parties continue protests, Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat Saturday said the Centre is ready to facilitate talks between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments over the Mekedatu project across the Cauvery rivser.
The minister was in Bengaluru for the southern states’ conclave on the “Jal Jeevan” and “Swachh Bharat” Missions. “We are in the process of doing that…I can’t assure you how long it will take as consensus has to be built,” Shekhawat said, while responding to a question on whether the Centre would make the two states sit together regarding Mekedatu.
In the Karnataka Budget announced on Friday, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai earmarked Rs 1,000 crore for the Mekedatu project. In his speech, he had said, “Mekedatu Balancing Reservoir and Bengaluru Drinking Water Project will be implemented by getting required clearances from the appropriate authority of the Central Government. For implementation of this project, a grant of Rs 1,000 crore will be provided in the current year (2022-23).”
Explaining the situation, Gajendra Singh said, “By sitting together, any sort of problem can be addressed. I wish the stakeholder states can sit together and address the issue so that this year onwards, work keeps going on the new Mekedatu project.”
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The “Mekedatu march” seeks construction of a reservoir near Ontigondlu in southern Karnataka to boost drinking water supply to Bengaluru and its surrounding areas. The site is located around 4 km from the state’s border with Tamil Nadu.
According to a feasibility report prepared in 2013 by the then government headed by Siddaramaiah, the reservoir would come up on an area of around 5,252 hectares, including 1,869 hectares of reserved forest land. It would have a storage capacity of 67.16 thousand million cubic feet (TMCF), of which 4.75 TMCF would be supplied to the state capital and its surrounding areas.
The project, estimated to cost around Rs 5,000 crore at that time, would also generate 400 megawatts of hydroelectric power, according to the report.
Tamil Nadu, however, has challenged the project before the Supreme Court, claiming the reservoir would eat into the state’s share of Cauvery’s water as adjudicated by the court in 2018.
With the Assembly elections just a year away, the Congress’s protest is seen by many as an effort to woo voters in south Karnataka, where water is an emotive issue. The Congress is hoping to displace the JD(S) as the most influential party in the Vokkaliga heartland, where they remain their main rivals.
The BJP has a small presence in south Karnataka, which accounts for 80 of the state’s 224 Assembly constituencies.
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