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  • 20 April, 2021

  • 25 Min Read

National Green Tribunal and Mekedatu Project

National Green Tribunal and Mekedatu Project

About Mekedatu Project:

  • Mekedatu, meaning goat’s leap, is a deep gorge situated at the confluence of the river Cauvery and its tributary Arkavathi.
  • Ontigondlu is the proposed reservoir site, situated in Ramanagara district in Karnataka about 100 km away from Bengaluru. It is in the midst of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary.
  • The Rs. 9,000 crore project aims to store and supply water for drinking purposes for Bengaluru city. Around 400 megawatts (MW) of power is also proposed to be generated through the project.

Historical Perspective

  • The project was first approved by the Karnataka state government in 2017.
  • It received approval from the erstwhile Ministry of Water Resources for the detailed project report and is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • The approval from MoEFCC is crucial because 63% of the forest area of the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary will be submerged.
  • 5,051 hectares of forests would be submerged, including 3,181 hectares in the sanctuary and 1,870 hectares in the reserve forest.
  • 4.75 thousand million cubic feet of water could be drawn from the reservoir to partially meet the drinking needs of Bengaluru.
  • Tamil Nadu has approached the Supreme Court (SC) against the project even if Karnataka has held that it would not affect the flow of water to Tamil Nadu.
  • In June 2020, during the Cauvery Water Management Authority’s meeting, Tamil Nadu reiterated its opposition to the project.

Why is Tamil Nadu opposing it?

  • Tamil Nadu is opposed to any project being proposed in the upper riparian unless it was approved by the Supreme Court.
  • Karnataka has no right to construct any reservoir on an inter-state river without the consent of the lower riparian state i.e. Tamil Nadu in this case.
  • The project is against the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT) in which the SC held that no state can claim exclusive ownership or assert rights to deprive other states of the waters of inter-state rivers.
  • The CWDT and the SC have found that the existing storage facilities available in the Cauvery basin were adequate for storing and distributing water so Karnataka’s proposal is ex-facie (on the face of it) untenable and should be rejected outright.
  • It has also held that the reservoir is not just for drinking water alone, but to increase the extent of irrigation, which is in clear violation of the Cauvery Water Disputes Award.

What is the news?

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has closed proceedings against the Mekedatu dam project after finding merit in the Karnataka government’s submissions that requisite environmental clearances were pending consideration before the statutory authorities concerned.
  • The observations came when the green panel took suo motu cosgnisance of media reports on allegations of violations of environmental norms in the construction of the dam.
  • A Bench headed by the NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said, “We find merit in the submission of learned A-G (Attorney General) for the State of Karnataka that the media report does not mention that the issue of statutory environmental clearances is already pending consideration before the statutory authorities concerned. Even the very same media report has been mentioned by the State of Tamil Nadu in its submission before the Ministry of Jal Shakti...”
  • “Accordingly, proceedings before this Tribunal are closed without prejudice to rival contentions of the parties on the subject in proceedings pending before the statutory authority concerned and before the Supreme Court,” the Bench said, while observing that the State of Tamil Nadu had raised the issue before the apex court.
  • The Karnataka government had contended that the media report had failed to disclose the fact that the process of obtaining necessary clearances was pending before authorities. All issues, including those of environmental, forest and wildlife clearances, were already a subject matter of consideration before the authorities, it had said.
  • However, the counsel appearing for the Tamil Nadu government opposed the stand and submitted that the environmental issue be examined by the Tribunal.
  • “Further, the same issue has also been raised by the state of Tamil Nadu before the Supreme Court. Thus there is no need for this Tribunal to continue the suo motu proceedings,” the NGT said.
  • The news report in question stated that the construction of the dam would have adverse impact on forests and sanctuaries.

Source: TH

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