September 28, 2005
A dispute over a tiny 350 acre island—located in the Cauvery river, on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border, in what was once Veerappan country— is threatening to drive a wedge between the two states.
Starved for visitors until last year, due to the Veerappan menace, the island near Hogenekal—famous for its waterfalls, has now become a prized tourism destination for both states.
While the dispute over the area has been simmering for a few days, remarks by senior politicians from both states this week, has raised the temperature around the issue.
The Tamil Nadu government’s recent decision to develop the region as an attractive tourist spot with a budget of Rs 1.50 crore is seen as the trigger for the dispute.
As part of the Hogenekal Beautification Project, the TN authorities were in the process of planting bamboo saplings on an island in the river when the Karnataka forest department claimed rights over the island and stopped the planting.
Both sides then agreed to carry out a joint survey of the disputed area to demarcate state boundaries and settle the issue. This agreement ran into trouble after both states differed on where the survey should begin from.
On Monday, however, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa in a statement in the TN Assembly warned Karnataka against raising an ‘‘unnecessary controversy’’ and added that the development work had been undertaken only within the borders of Tamil Nadu.
On Tuesday, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister M P Prakash struck back. He said Karnataka had ‘‘legal and moral’’ rights over the island and said,‘‘With no issues left to be raked up, Tamil Nadu is raising the island issue unnecessarily eying the coming elections in that state’’.
Both states claim that people around the island are a part of their voters lists.
Meanwhile Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh said he had approached the Centre to resolve the issue by conducting a joint survey of the border region.
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have in the past had disputes with serious ramifications on the people of both states, including the Cauvery water sharing dispute and disputes over the Veerappan issue.
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